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Good news more immigrants arriving, but where will they live?
Jan 07, 2011
Over the 12 months of 2010, Manitoba’s population increased by 16,227 people.
Manitoba Entrepreneurship, Training and Trade Minister Peter Bjornson said the record-breaking growth was driven people to move to Manitoba from around the world.
Statistics Canada reported 13,282 immigrants arrived in Manitoba in 2010, the greatest rate since 1946.
Bjornson said the Provincial Nominee Program accounted for three-quarters of all immigrants in Canada.
In the past 10 years, Manitoba has grown by 92,000 people, an increase roughly equivalent to the combined populations of Brandon, Thompson, Portage la Prairies, Steinbach and Winkler.
It’s great news, but there’s a problem that has a direct bearing on enhanced immigration that also has to be addressed.
WinnipegREALTORS® recently completed the paper, Manitoba’s Rental Housing Shortage, which among its highlights discusses the problems facing immigrants when they opt to move to Winnipeg and Manitoba.
“Immigration is stressing the already scarce rental supply, who almost always start out in rental units,” according to the paper.
“As immigration levels are expected to increase to meet labour needs and fuel economic growth, which means rental demand is expected to grow exponentially.”
Unfortunately, the number of rental units declined in Winnipeg by  673 units due to the demolition of dilapidated accommodations and conversions to condos. This comes at a time when Winnipeg’s vacant rate is at a historic low level.
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation recently reported Winnipeg’s rental vacancy rate was  0.8 per cent, the lowest rate among the 35 Canadian cities surveyed. In Transcona, the rate stands at zero. 
In centres outside Winnipeg, the rental vacancy rate is equally troublesome — Thompson’s rate is just 0.3 per cent, while Brandon’s is 0.5 per cent and Steinbach’s is 0.6 per cent.   
“The challenge is to open up the market to attract investors, protect owner’s property rights and acknowledge tenant’s rights, while promoting better access to affordable housing,” according to WinnipegREALTORS®.
In the discussion paper, a strong case is made to either completely remove rent controls or take a lesson from Ontario and change the existing Manitoba rent control regime to encourage more investment in rental units. In Ontario, rent controls are abandoned when a voluntarily-vacated unit is placed on the market in order to allow the market to dictate what is a fair rate for the unit. Once a new tenant moves in, rent controls are re-applied.
“Rent control actively discourages maintenance and upkeep of units as funds cannot be raised to cover costs,” according to the discussion paper.
“As a long-time operator of affordable rental units in Winnipeg’s inner city,” said Helmet Baldes, a member of WinnipegREALTORS® who helped to compile the discussion paper, “I can say unequivocally that the current system is flawed with inconsistent application of the rules and procedures. 
“While I have survived and become more adept at dealing with a cumbersome Manitoba rental regime system, I totally understand how small operators will throw their hands up in frustration and sell off their rental properties,” he added.
“In many cases, rent legislation in this province is hurting those it is designed to help ...,” according to the discussion paper. “In the Manitoba context, rent controls have the effect of benefitting only the upper two-thirds of wage earners who pay just an average of 20 per cent of their annual income for rent. The bottom third pay an average of 48 per cent of their income on shelter.”