As construction vehicles clattered and squealed in the background, a small group of people gathered behind the All Saints’ Anglican Church on Wednesday afternoon to celebrate the mixed-income rental housing project that will soon rise up where there is now just a hole in the ground.
The West Broadway Commons will feature 110 new homes in the community, 56 of which will be affordable housing units.
The project received $25.6 million in federal funds through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s national housing co-investment fund. The City of Winnipeg also contributed $250,000 through its housing rehabilitation investment reserve.
The project was the result of more than four years of work, and began to take shape when members of the All Saints’ Anglican Church realized the hall behind the church was in dire need of costly upgrades.
"We faced an impossibly high cost to put it back in shape," said Sandi Mielitz, vice-chair of the church’s building committee.
Instead, they decided to look into the possibility of repurposing the land.
"We wanted to be involved in a project which did not lose money, but had a strong social and environmental component. It had to contribute to the quality of life in West Broadway," Mielitz said.
The church received many serious proposals for commercial spaces, but Mielitz said only one submission pitched the idea of affordable, accessible and environmentally conscious housing units: the University of Winnipeg Community Renewal Corporation 2.0.
Mielitz said the support behind the project, which is expected to be complete by December 2020, shows just how many ways thoughtful design and development can benefit communities.
"What truly is the highest and best use for a piece of land? We quickly think about financial terms, return on investment," she said. "But if we care about our future and the health of our society, we need to broaden this definition."
David Wilson, chair of the church’s building committee, said the housing project could provide ideas to other cities across Canada as they look at possible solutions to housing instability.
"We need more projects like this across the country to fill that missing gap for people that need suitable housing to live in," Wilson said. "This is a prime example of that."
Winnipeg Centre MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette said the project shows what a community as determined as the one in West Broadway can accomplish.
"We’re all passionate about our city, and we all share common goals of ensuring that everyone has access to safe, affordable and stable housing," Ouellette said. "That’s why we are here today."
Ouelette said all common areas in the building will meet universal accessible design standards, and 33 of its units will be fully accessible. The housing development will also meet an energy rating 30 per cent better than what’s required by the National Energy Building Code.
Updated on Wednesday, August 7, 2019 at 9:25 PM CDT: Updates story.