Vets bring permanent wartime look to East York

A former mayor of East York says the Second World War and Canadian vets have left a lasting impression on his community.

Part way through the 1939-1945 war, the Canadian Government faced the task of moving soldiers back into civilian life when hostilities ended. To ease the transition, Parliament passed the Veterans’ Land Act in 1942 to encourage veterans to purchase land and houses throughout Canada.

Alan Redway, the former mayor of East York, believes the Act helped shape East York into a community that relied on veterans for growth.

“After the First World War, there were veterans who built houses in the southeast corner of East York,” he said. “The advent of Second World War veterans building homes… caused, I wouldn’t say a population boom, but a significant increase in the population of East York.”

The Veterans’ Land Act allowed returning veterans to purchase land with a government loan, without heavy financial obligations. Between 1942 and 1977 (when new loan applications were terminated) 140,000 veterans purchased land and houses across the country.

While Scarborough had an abundance of temporary wartime housing designed for workers, the houses built in East York were constructed of higher quality materials. Of the houses constructed in East York, there were two different types of houses built for veterans. Edna Beange is a former East York councillor.

“There were one and a half story houses, that had three bedrooms and were about 38 feet in length,” she said. “And the second kind of houses had an acre each, and those went to longer-serving members of the military.”

Today, the houses built following the Second World War can be found throughout East York, although high-rise developments resulted in a portion of them being destroyed, particularly near the border with Scarborough.

Yet the introduction of veterans’ housing in East York has left a permanent mark on the community. As Alan Redway said, the large veteran community in East York would not exist were it not for the veterans who built their homes here.

“East York is a veteran’s haven, because we have three Royal Canadian Legions in East York and one just to the south of us,” he said. “And while there may not be that many veterans around today, their descendants still call East York home.”