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Sweat Equity

New book on province’s attempt to solve housing crunch 1920-74

Research | Books at Memorial

The lack of decent urban housing — a problem neither new nor unique to Newfoundland — was widely recognized during the 20th century.

After numerous piecemeal attempts to find a solution, a remarkable and successful government-supported “sweat equity” program was established in 1952, where homes were built co-operatively and, upon completion, became owner-occupied. This labour (about 2,000 hours per man) was accepted in lieu of a down payment.

Tracing public policy during the Commission of Government and the early days of the Smallwood administration, and sourced from archival material and interviews with surviving members of the co-operatives, Sweat Equity outlines how people in Newfoundland tried to solve the housing shortage themselves by building more than 500 houses in the 1950s and 1960s.

This critical monograph-length study — the first of its kind on the subject — is the story of how the Commission of Government and the then new provincial government recognized the desperate need for decent accommodation and what they did to provide it.

Co-author Dr. Chris Sharpe is professor emeritus in the Department of Geography, and co-author Dr. Jo Shawyer is a retired associate professor of the Department of Geography.

Sweat Equity is available from ISER Books.

With more than 100 books in print — on topics ranging from the fishery and oil and gas, to anthropology and gender studies — ISER Books publishes authors from scholarly institutions across Canada and internationally, as well as non-academic experts and practitioners. ISER Books is the publishing division of the Institute of Social and Economic Research in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, and has been investigating and chronicling the North Atlantic and beyond for the past 50 years.