Will rooming houses survive rising values?


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/10/2017 (2057 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

West Broadway, like many central city neighbourhoods, went through quite a transformation during the second half of the 20th century.

It is currently a mixed income neighbourhood with a stock of housing affordable to those on low incomes — but will this last?

When looking for a place to move this summer I was struck by all the places with low rents in West Broadway. As someone who regularly visits Osborne Village, I was aware of that neighbourhood’s increasing desirability and fairly expensive condo developments. Given news of places that are “hip” to young urban professionals popping up in West Broadway, and its proximity to Wolseley, I expected property values and hence rents would be rising rapidly.

I was able to find a rooming house unit, at a fairly affordable rent, in a section of West Broadway comparably close to Osborne Village. I clearly overestimated the rate of land values rising, good for someone with a relatively low income at the moment.

Starting in the 1950s, with car-driven development and the location of amenities such as shopping centres in the suburban periphery, many central Winnipeg neighbourhoods experienced decline, including a decline in population, decline in jobs, and concentrated poverty. A 2014 Institute of Urban Studies (IUS) report on rooming houses notes that West Broadway experienced a shift from a mixed income neighbourhood to one experiencing general urban decline trends between the 1950s and mid-1990s.

The inner city, in terms of livability and desirability, is improving from its 1990s nadir. This includes West Broadway. Perceptions of the neighbourhood remain stuck in the 1990s in the minds of some, especially, in my experience, some suburban residents. This may serve to preserve affordable housing in the area but there are still pressures.

The 2014 IUS report notes that there were 63 to 83 fewer rooming houses in West Broadway in 2014 than there were in 2002. This translates into 600 to 830 fewer affordable housing units, by the report writers’ estimate.

One possible explanation for the decline in rooming house stock — which the report notes is occurring in the Spence neighbourhood — is that property value appreciation makes it more profitable to sell houses rather than rent out rooms.

In a city such as Winnipeg, where there has not been significant construction of new apartment buildings, preserving rooming houses will be key to ensuring an affordable housing stock. It is an area policy makers should be looking into.

Dylon Martin is a community correspondent for West Broadway.

Dylon Martin

Dylon Martin
West Broadway community correspondent

Dylon Martin is a community correspondent for West Broadway.

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