The City of Winnipeg was incorporated in 1873 by a charter granted by the legislature of Manitoba. At incorporation, the City established a committee system of government: while Council was the governing body for the City, it was in committee that civic policies were formed and executed. The initial task for the first and all subsequent Councils was to strike standing committees for the Council year. In addition to standing committees, Council established special committees to investigate and manage various projects, issues and questions placed before the City. Special committees were typically struck by a Council motion that outlined committee composition and responsibilities. From about 1924 onward, special committees and their associated files were assigned an alpha-numeric code beginning with the letter "A".
The Special Committee on Housing Conditions was formed in December of 1933. In the original motion, the committee was instructed to conduct a detailed survey of housing conditions in Winnipeg. This motion was amended and the scope of the committee expanded to address the "whole matter of housing conditions in the City of Winnipeg". In 1935, the committee was further instructed to look into overcrowding and to determine areas that could be cleared and redeveloped. Between 1937 and 1945, the committee formed and managed the Winnipeg Housing Company Limited and its demonstration home project.
Throughout its history, the committee worked with the federal and provincial governments to take advantage of programs and funding sources for housing starts and renovations. In particular, the committee worked with Wartime Housing Limited to address housing needs for returning servicemen and veterans. In 1947, the committee created a Fact Finding Board to prepare a report on housing conditions up to that point in time.
Acute housing shortages during the 1940s lead to creation of the Emergency Housing Department in 1945, reported to Council through the Special Committee on Housing Conditions. This city department maintained a registry of applicants for housing and available housing units, lead a campaign to encourage citizens to register and rent out unoccupied rooms in their homes, administered various emergency and low rental housing sites, and became increasingly involved in welfare and social work relating to tenants in city housing projects (individual or family case histories are contained in some communications files). Annual reports prepared by the Emergency Housing Department provide statistical data and analyses of the effects of acute housing shortages on those living in substandard housing as well as on the city as a whole.
Effective January 1, 1957, the staff of the Emergency Housing Department were transferred into the Public Welfare Department of the City of Winnipeg, which then reported to Council through the Public Welfare Committee. At the first council meeting in 1957, a motion to "not reappoint" the Special Committee on Housing Conditions carried by majority and it was discontinued.