The Winnipeg Housing Rehabilitation Corporation (WHRC) is making inroads outside the inner city.
The WHRC announced its first plan to build affordable housing outside Winnipeg’s core in a conference on Dec. 16. The organization secured $10.1 million in federal and provincial funding through the Investment in Affordable Housing agreement between the two levels of government, an additional $14.3 million from the province, as well as a two-acre parcel of land from the City of Winnipeg. The cash will help build a 92-unit rental-housing project, named Paul E. Martin Estates, at 840 Ravelston Ave.
As part of the project, the largest by WHRC to date, there will be a four-storey wing with 47 units for seniors and a six-story wing with 45 units for families. The wings will be linked by a two-storey common area. The entire project is expected to cost $25.9 million, with additional funding coming from the WHRC.
Coun. Russ Wyatt (Transcona), sits on the WHRC board of directors, and was inspired to join after hearing of a senior-aged woman who had to move back into her mother’s basement when her apartments were being converted into condominiums.
"During the last election, when going door-to-door, I heard from different seniors about the need for affordable housing. There are many condominiums and different projects being built within the community, but the level of rent or the cost of getting into them was too high for many," Wyatt said in a phone interview. "Even though housing is more provincial or federal in terms of subsidized housing or affordable housing, more of a federal or provincial matter, after the election, I thought ‘Maybe there’s something I can do.’"
Wyatt said construction is expected to begin in the spring for an official opening in 2015. He noted there can be a stigma associated with affordable housing, but there is an attempt to minimize that sentiment. The building was designed by local architect Ray Wan, who has done other work in the area.
"You wouldn’t know you’re living in an affordable-housing building. There’s no ghettoization," he said.
Wyatt added there is an extremely low vacancy rate in the area, so it addresses that issue while making the housing attainable.
"It’s geared toward affordability all around," he said, noting the provincial and civic relationship on the project made it a model for future development. "It’s a really unique concept, and it addresses two big issues — affordable housing for families and affordable housing for seniors."
The province’s Housing and Community Development Minister, Peter Bjornson, was also at the announcement, and was excited about what the development means for seniors.
"The distinctive design of this new rental housing project not only offers much-needed quality affordable housing, it also allows families to support seniors who need at-home care," Bjornson said in a press release.
"This investment is helping families and seniors of Winnipeg access safe and affordable housing that meets their needs," added MP Lawrence Toet (Elmwood-Transcona) in the same release.
The non-profit WHRC has over 1,000 units across over 40 residential properties in Wolseley, the West End, the North End, Point Douglas, and downtown.