Bridging the financial gap for south-Winnipeg renters
The Bridgwater will offer affordable units for growing neighbourhood
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A breath of budget-friendly air will soon sweep through south Winnipeg.
The Bridgwater complex is the latest project to break ground in Bridgwater and will be one of the first affordable housing options to be erected in the budding community, with its luxury rental units starting as low as $920 per month.
Nigel Furgus, president and co-founder of the developer Paragon Living, expects the complex, which will be completed by fall 2024, to be welcomed with open arms for its modest rates during a time of anguish for many prospective first-time home owners and renters, as interest rates and rental costs have skyrocketed in recent years.
“The Bridgwater community is a thriving community,” said Furgus at the site’s groundbreaking. “I think it’s probably one of the most valuable communities in the city of Winnipeg. It’s growing 44,000 residents in the area.
“There’s a lot of units coming here and we looked at it as, ‘What can our market advantage be?’ We typically bring above-market finishings for below-market rates so we wanted to put a truly affordable housing project into Bridgwater.”
The five-story complex will offer one- to three-bedroom suites while monthly costs will include high-speed internet and water. Tenants will have access to underground, heated parking spaces. Furgus said the concrete and steel structure will be 20 per cent more energy efficient than the energy code requires, using Logix ICF, an innovative insulation.
“I think right now, as a Trinidadian immigrant myself, I see the housing prices that are about to happen,” Furgus said. “We see that there are a lot of new units coming to market and the rates that those units are coming to market for are unaffordable.
“But when you can bring quality, affordable units to market, it really brings value back to the community. You see these buildings fill up very quickly and you also see that these families thrive in these environments, where they can have a unit for $920 a month and not $1,500 to $1,600 a month.”
High demand for multi-family housing in the city has left builders such as Bockstael Construction with no shortage of work, as Winnipeg’s population continues to grow. Canada is expected to add upwards of another 500,000 newcomers by 2025, many of whom will call Manitoba’s capital home and certainly appreciate an affordable living option.
“Regardless of the economic situation, we’re still seeing a strong drive on the multi-family side and there has been a shift toward affordable housing and gearing toward that immigrant community, making spaces ready for that immigration, when it does come,” said Dan Bockstael, vice-president of preconstruction for Bockstael Construction.
“The multi-family market is still very strong and I think there’s been a lot of investment from all levels of government toward that and we’re seeing an increase in that, but it really requires these sort of collaborative partnerships and innovative approaches that Paragon is bringing to make these projects happen.”
Peter Squire, vice-president of the Winnipeg Regional Real Estate Board, estimates 70 per cent of new developments in the city are geared toward multi-family units.
While Squire conceded there’s a push from the public for affordable housing options in impoverished areas of the city, such as those surrounding downtown, where the streets see a growing homeless population, he expressed gratitude for any new dwelling with a reduced rate.
“We just need to build more housing supply in general and keep that whole thrust on that increases our multi-family units, which we weren’t doing in the first decade of this millennium, and it caused a real rental shortage for the city,” Squire said. “Now our vacancy rate is sitting around four per cent. Rent certainly has gone up, and in some cases, it’s been very tough for people with lower incomes.
“Some will be critical because it doesn’t fit that exact demographic and group they think needs it more than some other income group, but the reality is, we are building more housing in our city and that, to me, is a positive.”
Squire references the rental crisis Winnipeg endured in the early 2000s, as a lack of units plagued a rapidly growing population. The city could be on the brink of a similar phenomenon if it doesn’t see the building of properties at a quicker rate.
Research by Scotiabank released in January revealed Canada’s population-adjusted housing stock is the lowest among G7 countries.
While the study showed Ontario being the worst province in terms of housing stock, needing over 650,000 homes for its ratio of dwellings-to-population to equal the rest of the country, it also spotlighted Manitoba, which owned a third-worst 400 private dwellings per 1,000 people in 2020. Alberta was also noted as having a chronic shortage of housing units.
Squire said he believes projects such as The Bridgwater will have a positive ripple effect on the city’s shortage of homes, as the City of Winnipeg continues to enact its plans from the Complete Communities Direction Strategy 2.0. The strategy, which estimates Winnipeg’s population to grow by more than 160,000 people and require more than 82,000 dwelling units by 2040, says it will target at least 50 per cent of all new dwelling units to be built in the existing built-up areas of the city.
Furgus noted The Bridgwater is tied to the Complete Communities strategy.
“What (The Bridgwater) also helps do, is it will help open up housing stock, because, in many cases — especially if they’re luxury apartments — those people’s ability to rent those units will come from them selling their single-family, and sometimes larger, empty-nest homes,” Squire said.
“When you look at the plan for the city of Winnipeg, Complete Communities means building that mix of housing for different segments of the market, including our younger people who would just be looking to rent or even some down-sizers. But, certainly, they have been addressing that in my view. Now here’s another niche area that they’re trying to address, and that would be the luxury apartment category.”
Joshua Frey-Sam happily welcomes a spirited sports debate any day of the week.