by Todd Lewys
Infill development in the city’s West End is about to get a boost from an old ally, and the timing couldn’t get better.
Now that HOP, otherwise known as Housing Opportunity Partnership, has secured funding from the provincial government, it’s all systems go, said HOP president Lori Thorsteinson.
“To say the least, we’re very excited about being back in business,” she said. “It’s taken a bit of time to get the funding, but now that we’ve got it, we can’t wait to get to work.
“We will be doing two homes to start, and will be looking at acquiring one more property, with two more homes to come after that,” she added.
REALTOR® Frank Zappia, who heads up property acquisition for HOP, said that two infill sites havealready been confirmed, with one more to be confirmed in the near future.
“The two sites we have confirmed are one on Langside Street and another on Maryland Street,” he said. “The third site has yet to be purchased, but we hope to be able to do that, and make an announcement on that site, perhaps in the next month or two.”
Long an advocate of community revitalization in the city’s West End, Zappia said it’s time to get it heading in a positive direction once again.
“I believe we finished our last home at the end of 2012, or early 2013, so it’s been awhile,” Zappia said. “It’s time to get back on track so we can start acquiring more lots, and start building homes that are so badly needed in the West End.”
To date, HOP has either refurbished or built 86 homes in the city’s West End (between Balmoral Street and Arlington Street) since 1999. The new agreement with the province will see another five infill homes built in the West End, taking that total to 91 homes.
Zappia said the five additions to HOP’s resume will be new homes built on infill lots ranging in size from 25 to 32 feet wide by 95 to 110 feet deep.
“Each home will be a brand-new two-storey home that measures in at about 1,100 square feet, and that comes with three bedrooms, two baths, four new appliances (fridge, stove, washer and dryer) and a full basement — and that also has roughed-in plumbing,” he said.
“The home is ready for folks to move in. If they want to develop the basement, it’s just a matter of framing and dry-walling it, and you’ve got another 500 square feet or so of livable space.”
He added that there are several conditions applicants must meet in order to qualify for a HOP home.
“First, you must have an income under $64,606. Next, you must be a first-time home buyer, and must be able to qualify for a mortgage in order to purchase the property,” he said. “And finally, the home must be owner-occupied, not rented, and you’ll be required to live in the home for 10 years. If you sell before then, you’ll have to find a buyer or pay a portion of a forgivable second mortgage.
“That hasn’t been a problem,” he added, “as most people who’ve gone into our homes are already area
residents who want to stay in the neighbourhood.”
Not surprisingly, the program has been a real boon to West End families.
“Its impact has been absolutely huge,” Zappia said. “Many families wouldn’t be able to purchase a home without the help we give them.
“More importantly, those families get a home of their own that gives them equity, generates pride of
ownership, and that gives them their own stable environment, something they likely didn’t have renting. It’s a dream come true for many families, as they’ve never had a home of their own.”
WinnipegREALTORS® market analyst Peter Squire said HOP’s return to the West End is only going to
create more positive momentum.
“Since 1999, HOP has been a huge catalyst for area redevelopment from residents to landlords,” said Squire. “It’s also benefitted the city’s assessment base, generating more tax revenue (with home values increasing from about $30,000 in 1999 to $160,000 at the end of 2013). HOP’s return is a win-win scenario for everyone involved.”
To date, HOP has invested over $4 million to purchase and renovate existing houses or build infill houses in the West End.