Dr. Belec's research specialties are focused in the study of urban residential design and housing markets, cross-border regions,and the social geography of Abbotsford's Townline neighborhood.
His longest standing research interest has been in the realm of twentieth century housing market development, especially with regard to the role of lending infrastructure. This was initiated in his PhD dissertation (1988), a study of the origins, and urban impact, of Canada's initial piece of federal housing legislation, the Dominion Housing Act of 1935. In Canada and the United States, the modern mortgage market is generally regarded as having played a key role in the growth and design of the post-war suburbs. John's study of Canadian housing policy is set within the broader context of regulation theory. As such, the establishment of the modern residential mortgage is understood to have been central to the intensive regime of capitalist accumulation of the latter twentieth century, that developed in Canada, and other advanced capitalist nations. It is generally argued in the literature that the development of the modern mortgage, was critical to the expansion of home ownership, especially in suburban settings.
The study of the Canada-United States border was initiated in 1999, in collaboration with Dr. Belec, fellow UCFV colleague, the late Doug Nicol, and Patrick Buckley in the Geography Department at Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA. This collaboration included 1) an international team-taught course (GEOG 421: Borderlands) for graduates and senior undergrads, and 2) research on the border.
The Abbotsford CMA is notable in Canada for containing the highest proportion of South Asian population and amongst the highest visible minority population, in the nation. These measures reflect the prominence of Abbotsford's Indo-Canadian population, which has recently marked in centenary. This demographic cohort is currently concentrated in the Townline neighbourhood of Abbotsford. The degree of concentration is very high; according to recent urban geography analysis, it's one of a handful of "polarized" neighbourhoods in Canada. (Walks 2010) Townline appears on the surface to be a success story; a vibrant, active, growing and adaptive community of multiple generations. It is also a neighbourhood with a relatively large number of newcomers. Townline is emblematic of what John Ibbitson has recently described to represent the "new Canada", as it embodies key trends revealed in the 2011 Census of Canada: "This census makes concrete what we already suspected: that immigrants are growing the new Canada, while the old Canada watches and worries in decline." (Ibbitson, The Globe and Mail, 19 September 2012). The focus of this study is on the structure and operation of the housing market that exists in Townline. Availability and affordability of housing are regularly cited to be key to successful newcomer integration in Canadian cities. (Hiebert and Mendez(2008); Hiebert, Mendez and Wyly (2008), Teixeira (2012)). In their review of related literature sponsored by Metropolis British Columbia, Teixeira and Pottie-Sherman (2012,15) identify housing analysis to be important for future research: "What makes one newcomer's integration more successful than another? Does housing matter? These are questions of critical significance for the future of British Columbia's major cities and, indeed, for the country itself."
J. Belec. 2015. Underwriting Suburbanization: The National Housing Act and the Canadian City. The Canadian Geographer. 59 (3): 341-353.
P. Buckley, J. Belec and J. Levy. 2015. Resource Management in Borderlands: Evolution from Competing Interests to Common Aversions. International Journal of Environmental Rsearch and Public Helath, 12 (7): 7541-7557.
J. Belec and Patrick Buckley. 2014. Democracy and the Space of Energy Flows: The Practice of Bordered Transnationalism in the Pacific Northwest. Journal of Borderlands Studies, 29 (3): 291-302.
P. Buckley and J. Belec. 2011. Cascadia Reconsidered: Questioning Micro-Scale Cross-Border Integration in the Fraser Lowland. University of the Fraser Valley Research Review, 3 (3).