The Manitoba Métis Federation is building its first-ever apartment complex, announcing the development of an age-55-plus rental project in Selkirk to be completed by fall 2024.
For years, the MMF has been building single-family homes as well as duplexes and triplexes, but federation president David Chartrand said the Métis community needed more housing options for those who are aging and looking to live in smaller, more manageable residences.
"We know there’s a desperate need for senior housing," Chartrand told the Free Press. "It can be very challenging to find a place to live, and the place has to have the proper situation for them personally (at that point in their lives.)"
The six-storey development on Selkirk’s Eveline Street will cost the MMF $14.8 million, Chartrand said, and will include 49 rental units, each of which will be accessible and available at affordable rates. Chartrand didn’t want to give an exact rent figure just yet. "But it’s going to be damn well affordable," he said. "I will make sure it’s going to be affordable for my people."
Chartrand said there has been significant uptake for the MMF’s first-time home buyers’ program, which has led to some 600 home purchases with 400 more purchases approved. But the options for rental apartments geared toward seniors at an affordable rate and with necessary adaptive capabilities — accessibility, low-maintenance, added assistance — is low, with Selkirk’s large Métis population making the city an easy choice, he said.
"I actually got another call from an elder in Winnipeg who wants to move in," he said.
Ideally for Chartrand, the MMF will be able to market a nearly identical rental option for Métis seniors in the Manitoba capital. The federation recently purchased the 93-year-old Roxy Lanes building on Henderson Highway with hopes of developing a 55-plus residence on site, but have been thus far kiboshed by a call to preserve the building with a historical designation by the city.
It’s a situation the MMF has publicly called into question, saying that most of the heritage qualities have been removed or altered. The MMF’s deputy chief of staff April Hourie told city council’s property and development committee earlier in May that the cost to fix the building would be "astronomical" and that the integrity of the building "is not reflective of (the theatre) it once was." Though the building was constructed in 1929 as an ornate movie theatre, it was converted into a bowling alley in 1960.
To move forward with the MMF development plan, the building would require demolition, and Chartrand said the new housing option would both act as a solution to a pressing issue and help improve the neighbourhood. He said the MMF already owns the building and the lot beside it, and only has to overcome the heritage nomination before moving forward with permitting and contracting.
"In the meantime, we might still run Roxy Lanes," he said. "It can take a long time to get a permit."
With the project in Selkirk, Chartrand has hopes that other cities, including Winnipeg, will recognize the value of such apartment developments. At the complex in Selkirk, he said there are plans for a clinic and a pharmacy to be located on site to promote holistic health for residents. He also was adamant there would be a terrace overlooking the Red River, and access for residents to a 3,800 square-foot common area.
Chartrand said buildings currently on the future development site in Selkirk will be demolished this summer, with aims to begin foundation work by February. He said a project like this has long been discussed, but is excited to see it come to fruition.
"I’ve been president for 25 years and was previously the minister of housing," Chartrand said. A project like this was once a "potential dream," he said. "This will make our people very, very proud."
"I’m 62," Chartrand said. "Getting old. Definitely, I would live there in a heartbeat."
Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.