A new mixed-use building planned for Broadway would offer affordable housing and support programs for the LGBTTQ+ community.

A new mixed-use building planned for Broadway would offer affordable housing and support programs for the LGBTTQ+ community.

The proposal for a four-storey mixed-use space at 545 Broadway has received $5 million from the federal rapid housing initiative.

On Feb. 1, a city council committee will consider a variance that could finalize municipal support for the project.

The plans include a commercial space and room for support programs on the ground floor, as well as 21 housing units on the three upper floors.

Noreen Mian, executive director of the Rainbow Resource Centre, said there’s a need for safe, affirmative, affordable housing options for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans-sexual adults, especially ones who are older.

"There’s a trend where we’re seeing seniors going into either a supportive living environment or congregate living or 55-plus building with individual suites and then having to go back into the closet… This is the generation that fought for equality but they’re still facing discrimination every step of the way," said Mian.

She said this project would address that issue. It is being championed by a partnership of the Westminster Housing Society (the applicant), the West Broadway Community Organization (the owner) and the Rainbow Resource Centre (a tenant and partner).

Mian said Rainbow Resource would move into the building to provide a variety of support services for all ages on its first floor, with a goal to include a commercial space that welcomes members of the LGBTTQ+ community to gather.

"There aren’t a lot of affirming queer spaces in the city… People are looking for places to gather in non-pandemic circumstances," she said.

In the longer term, Mian said Rainbow Resource hopes to create a campus of services at the Broadway property. That could include some form of connection to Wilson House, a protected heritage building on the site. While details for that vision are still being worked out, she’d ideally like it to include some form of community drop-in space and a large multi-purpose room.

A city official confirmed the approval of the variance by the city centre community committee is needed to finalize the project.

Mary Agnes Welch, chairwoman of the board for the Westminster Housing Society, said the group has worked with city planning staff and consulted the community extensively, making it confident the variance requirement will not serve as a roadblock.

The fact counselling and other services would be available within the new mixed-used building is expected to help ensure those who struggle to find affordable homes can stay in the new units in the long term, she said.

Welch noted rents at the site will aim to serve Winnipeggers who rely on social assistance, disability supports or small pensions.

"Our hope is that, for a significant number of these units, tenants are paying $285, $380 a month, deeply affordable rents (that are) well below market rates," she said, noting that amount could be possible after rent subsidies and other supports are factored in.

The new construction is not expected to affect Wilson House, the protected heritage building it would be adjacent to, according to a city report. Built in 1904, that two-and-a-half-storey brick structure is protected against demolition.

Under the federal rapid housing initiative, the project is expected to be ready for tenants to move in by the end of this year.

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Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga
Reporter

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.