A house of last resort
There are cockroaches and bedbugs, crack dealers and addicts, but for some at least, a rooming house provides a roof over their heads.
The Spence Street rooming house is an endangered species in the inner city.
That sounds like a good thing — who wants to live in a rooming house, or next to one? But in fact, it’s the start of a catastrophe.
As parts of the core gentrify, rooming houses -- especially the big ones -- are being flipped into fancier duplexes or single family homes.
In the last decade, Spence has lost about 20 per cent of its rooming houses, according to new research done by the University of Winnipeg’s Institute of Urban Studies and the Spence Neighbourhood Association. That research involved going house-by-house in Spence, counting the number of rooming houses. It’s the best snapshot we have of the prevalence of rooming houses and suggests the number has dropped from 145 in 2004 to 117 now.
Burton, who walked the streets with IUS researchers, can think of two rooming houses she’s seen flipped since she hit the streets a year ago.
Despite the drop, there are still nearly 1,100 rooming house residents in Spence alone. For most, their small room is a last resort, the only thing standing between them and Siloam Mission.
And Spence is slow to gentrify. West Broadway is in a full blown crisis as it hipsterizes, and staff at the neighbourhood community organization there are now trying desperately to improve life in the area’s remaining rooming houses and keep them from closing, while also raising the alarm about what they say is the inner city’s most pressing housing issue.