Charlotte Whitton’s Special Plea To William Griesinger, 1952

Charlotte Whitton in 1954. Image: City of Ottawa Archives, Item CA033254.

One of my favourite letters written by Ottawa Mayor Charlotte Whitton was sent by her to Ontario Minister of Planning and Development William Griesinger in 1952. 

The June 27, 1952 letter concerned the implementation of the Ottawa Lowren Housing project in Overbrook and its name in particular.

June 27, 1952

The Hon. William Griesinger,
Minister of Planning and Development,
880 Bay Street,
Toronto, Ontario.

Dear Mr. Minister:

You have been so informed and sympathetic on our plans in Ottawa to endeavour to do something in the Housing situation, that I am taking the rather personal procedure of writing to ask for your particular interest in a situation which has arisen in respect to our application for the name of a possible Limited Dividend Corporation under the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation Limited.

Briefly, I may say that from our operation of emergency shelters here, under our Social Service Department, that handling about $1,300,000. of rent collections in the last six years, we have incurred a deficit of over $150,000. This letter being involved due almost entirely to instruction given to the Social Services Commissioner, from time to time, to write off rents of persons who have been allowed to fall into arrears.

The City of Ottawa, because of most unworthy political considerations which have marked anything that it has attempted in its municipal housing undertakings, is definitely and bitterly opposed to any type of municipal housing. This prejudice runs so generally through the property owners and ratepayers that it is almost impossible, combined with the feeling that "the Dominion should do it", to get anything going in housing.

As you know, we have been working for over a year on Housing Committees and I am hoping that we may be able to find agreement to two or three small pilot schemes.

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However, in my judgment, it will be utterly fatal, with nearly two hundred families who have utterly refused to leave the Rockcliffe Shelter and whol [sic], if we force them to leave, simply abandon their children - and these are in families of ten and twelve, to undertake anything if we have the least idea it is associated with Municipal Housing.

However, on the other hand, if we want to get any financial votes at all or support, we have to have the word "Housing" in the Association.

We have therefore applied and indulged considerably in Long Distance and letters, for the right to call one of these little pilot schemes, the Lowren Housing Corporation ('Lowren' standing for 'Low Rent').

We do not care so much about 'Corporation' - we are prepared to lose that name, but we do want to use the word 'Housing', and we are told by the Provincial Secretary's Department, as I have explained to Mr. Bunnell on Long Distance, that we cannot use this in ordinary practice of the Department because it is restricted to Housing under Government sponsorship.

Since the Lowren Housing Company would be definitely associated with the City, be named by the City and yet handle from the beginning explorations, etc., independently, we are making a very special and earnest plea to use the word 'Housing'.

However, the Deputy Provincial Secretary now advises Mr. Medcalf, the City Solicitor, that we will have to call the the City of Ottawa Lowren Housing Company. We are therefore writing to ask you if we may not be allowed the same privilege as Owen Sound, where an exactly similar development is called the Owen Sound Housing etc. undertaking.

Once we put the name 'City of Ottawa' in, we are sunk from the beginning. It is regarded as a municipal enterprise, there will be interference, to such a degree that I do not believe that we could get any responsible group of independent citizens to take our Directorship. There will be continuous pressures for contracts, for tenants, etc., in fact, if we have to use 'The City of" in connection with our project, personally, I will recommend that we abandon the whole item because it would be damned before it ever got started.

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I am therefore writing to ask for your personal interest and consideration with the Provincial Secretary's Department to allow us the same privilege as Owen Sound and to use only the name 'Ottawa' in this project.

We do not want to use any individual name which is what has been suggested.

Yours sincerely,


Letter is transcribed from copy located in City of Ottawa Archives, Accession 2015.0196.19 Box A2015-0442 File “Lowren Housing Co. Ltd. – 1951-1956”.