Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Strong real estate market, funding cuts mean fewer infill and low-income housing projects

The fix isn't in

  • Print

Winnipeg's robust real estate market and the cutting back of government funding at all levels have reduced the ability of non-profits to create more low-income housing, producing a double whammy: Fewer of Winnipeg's aging housing stock is being renovated or replaced and the city's poor are forced to live in dilapidated housing that much longer.


The city's higher house prices are even true in the inner city, Jino Distasio, director of the Institute of Urban Studies at the University of Winnipeg, said.

A decade ago, an older rooming house could be snapped up in the inner city or North End for $25,000 to $30,000 to be renovated.

The price for the same house has skyrocketed out of the reach of many non-profits that rely on government funding.

"The market has changed so radically that there just isn't really... the mechanism for some of the small groups to be able to do this," Distasio said.

"In terms of affordability, how do you take a house, buy it for $100,000, put another $60,000 in for renovation and then try to market it to a low-income family? Could they even afford that even if you could turn it around?"

What's also hurt Winnipeg's non-profit groups is the inability to secure government funding at a time of budget cutbacks, both in Ottawa and by the province.

"It's about a dwindling amount of dollars and a tightening of the regulations to get to them," Distasio said. "There just isn't that much money out there."

Charlie Huband, board member of Westminster Housing Society Inc., said Manitoba Housing a year ago brought in a proposal-call system, in which at specific times, groups could submit funding proposals for their projects. The province has said it wants to add 1,500 new affordable housing units by March 31, 2014.

But Huband, a former Appeal Court judge, said that system doesn't work for Westminster, which was previously funded by the province.

Huband said the non-profit group, which renovates homes in the city's West End, wants to get government funding when a property comes up for sale outside of the province's call for proposals.

"We can't answer a proposal call where they say 'Give us your information about the property you own' and so on," he said. "We don't own it. Proposal calls work when you already own the land and you're coming in with an architect's plans, and we're not in that position and we never were in that position."

This year, Westminster agreed to a one-time funding deal with Manitoba Housing for a two-unit project at 209 Maryland St., with Westminster carrying up to 50 per cent of the project's cost in exchange for Manitoba Housing subsidizing the rent.

The group also met with Housing and Community Development Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross in April to ask the province to set up a fund for smaller non-profits that can't operate within a proposal-call system, but are willing to put more of their own equity into projects.

"We had a good meeting with the minister, but we haven't received an answer," he said.

A spokeswoman for the province said officials are aware some groups would like to see a different funding system to assist in the purchase of properties, such as rooming houses that are now derelict or sub-standard.

At the same time, she said, the province has to ensure appropriate due diligence in the expenditure of public funds and it has to use fair, transparent processes such as requests for proposals when possible.

Non-profits are fighting back in other ways.

They've recently united -- there are more than 250 groups in the province -- under the Manitoba Non-Profit Housing Association (MNPHA) to bring a louder voice to the need for low-income housing projects. Its first conference is Nov. 22-23.

"We're trying to see if we can get together to make sure affordable housing doesn't go by the wayside," said MNPHA president Menno Peters, also executive director of the Winnipeg Housing and Rehabilitation Corp.

Without that voice and its influence on government, the spectre exists that fewer run-down homes and even apartments will be fixed up.

"I think it's important to improve them, not just to provide low-income housing but also to improve the streetscape," Huband said.

"It does something for the neighbourhood to have a decrepit building reconstituted and become a real credit to the neighbourhood."

WINNIPEG has a glut of old and poor-quality housing, says Jino Distasio, director of the Institute of Urban Studies at the University of Winnipeg.

The 2006 census shows 42 per cent of the city's housing stock was built before 1945. That represents about 10,000 units. In Vancouver, it's 16 per cent; in Montreal, it's 26 per cent. Winnipeg also has about 24,000 units deemed to be in major need of repair.

"For some reason, we're not keeping up with recycling that stock and replacing it with new," Distasio said. "This ring of old housing is causing us some challenges because the upkeep is more substantial."

The quality of that older housing stock, especially low-income rental properties, will continue to decline as public funding to renovate them also declines.

Addressing it will take a combination of government, non-profit groups and private investment, he said.

"It's a segment of the market that we have to invest in for the social good of the city," Distasio said.

"You can't say the market is through the roof and not make some investments. If the market is humming and property assessments are through the roof, well then we've got to reinvest some of those dollars in renovation and repairs for those units most in need of support."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 18, 2012 B1

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Andrew Ladd talks about his injury

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A goose comes in for a landing Thursday morning through heavy fog on near Hyw 59 just north of Winnipeg - Day 17 Of Joe Bryksa’s 30 day goose challenge - May 24, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A young goose gobbles up grass at Fort Whyte Alive Monday morning- Young goslings are starting to show the markings of a adult geese-See Bryksa 30 day goose challenge- Day 20– June 11, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


Are you concerned about the number of homicides so far this year?

View Results

Ads by Google