Call for Volunteers, Housing and Urban Issues News for Spring 2022

CALL FOR VOLUNTEERS: Public Event in the late summer/fall

YIMBY Winnipeg, in partnership with other groups, is planning to hold a public event some time in late summer and early fall. The exact form it takes, including whether it will be purely virtual, physically in-person, or hybrid, still has to be decided. We’re looking for volunteers to help with planning and organizing this event. If you are interested, please email expressing your interest.

Housing and Urban Issues News

  • Downtown Bay Building transfers ownership: On Friday April 22, the Hudson Bay Building in Downtown Winnipeg transferred ownership to the Southern Chiefs Organization (SCO). The SCO plans use the site for a mixed-use development, including around 300 affordable housing units, under the project title Wehwehneh Bahgahkinahgohn (“it is visible”). The massive, 600,000 square foot Bay building as been a source of uncertainty for Downtown Winnipeg in the last few years. The building has been vacant since The Bay closed its downtown department store in November 2020. Due to costly needed repairs and limits to the types of renovations that can be made resulting from the City of Winnipeg’s heritage designation for the building in 2019, there have been few developers eager to buy the building. In the past, The Bay has offered to sell the building for as little as $1 to those who would redevelop it with no takers. A 2019 Appraisal estimated repairs to bring the building up to code would cost $111 million with a market value of $0 for the building. To help with the enormous upfront cost of repairs, the Province of Manitoba has pledged $25 million in a trust fund announced last year and $10 million in funds for the housing component. The Government of Canada is offering a $55 million forgivable loan and a $10 million low-cost loan.
Image Source: KrazyTea
  • Federal Budget spends on housing: The 2022 Federal Budget contains some investment in housing. One key initiative is a $4 billion Municipal Accelerator Fund that rewards municipalities which expedite the process for building affordable housing, with a target of 100,000 units over five years across Canada. You can read the Manitoba Non-Profit Housing Association (MNPHA) breakdown of the Federal Budget’s housing spending here and read a Winnipeg Free Press story on it here.
  • Manitoba in the bottom three provinces for homes per person: An analysis by Scotiabank showed that Manitoba is in the bottom three provinces, alongside Alberta and Ontario, when it comes to homes per person for 2020. Canada lags the G7 average in homes per person overall. For Manitoba to match the national average, which is itself low by G7 standards, 23,000 new housing units need to be built.
  • Census shows Winnipeg sprawled: According to an analysis census data for metro areas by Radio Canada, Winnipeg grew 136 square kilometres between 2001 and 2021. With more modest population growth, the density of Winnipeg dropped nearly 13%. Speaking to The Uniter, YIMBY Winnipeg spokesperson Dylon Martin noted the benefits of infill over greenfield sprawl as allowing “us to more optimally use our existing infrastructure, provides homes for people in areas where there’s already access to public transportation and amenities within walking distance and increases the livelihood of existing businesses so that they can survive and thrive in an area.”
  • Rents rise, but slower, in Winnipeg: Rents rose 2.6% in same-sample apartments in Winnipeg from 2020-21, according to the CMHC Rental Market Report. This increase in rents is, however, lower than previous years. New rental supply entering the market is deemed to have moderated rising rents and has contributed to rising vacancies in higher priced rental units.
  • Short-Term Rental Regulation: The City of Winnipeg is looking into regulating short-term rentals, through online services such as Airbnb. There are concerns over livability impacts on residents of multi-family buildings, a level playing field when it comes to rules established hotels must follow, and the impact online short-term rental services may have in taking housing units off the longer-term rental market. Winnipeg plans to spend six months working on these rules. One rule the Manitoba Hotel Association would like to see is limiting short-term rentals such that owners can only list their primary residence, as is the case in Toronto.
  • Next Winnipeg Street Census: The next Winnipeg Street Census is set for May 25th, 2022. This is a one day, point-in-time count used to create a statistical snapshot of the homeless population in Winnipeg. Similar Street Censuses occur in other Canadian metros. The Street Census, conducted by volunteers, is useful for gathering demographic information on those experiencing homelessness which can help inform policy and programming.