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Housing renewal in the heart of the city
Jun 23, 2006

The Winnipeg Real Estate Board is pleased to share with the WREN readership the progress of a housing initiative that it established in 1997. It started off very modestly but over time has clearly helped change the face and outlook of neighbourhoods within the West End such as St. Matthews, Daniel McIntyre and Spence.  

The non-profit Housing Opportunity Partnership, or HOP, has to date acquired 60 homes with 56 homes sold and four under renovation. 

HOP is an inner-city housing revitalization initiative dedicated to reclaiming houses, streets and neighbourhoods by acquiring homes in bad need of repair, upgrading them and then selling them to new homeowners. Its efforts have resulted in over $3 million being invested in the West End. 

The success of the partnership is shown when you consider that the average residential-detached sale price in the MLS® area HOP targeted has more than tripled since the partnership began. In May, the average MLS® house price in the eastern portion of the West End that includes West Broadway was $72,000. It really is quite remarkable when you consider that the average house price for this area was in a free-fall in the 90s and could have slipped below $20,000. 

HOP’s housing acquisitions progression from west of Arlington Street to a concentration on streets and blocks immediately east of Arlington. HOP is now rehabilitating some homes in the Spence neighbourhood and will have a home on Langside Street completed this summer. A map showing all of HOP’s home locations can be found at www.hopwinnipeg.com. 

HOP is far from alone in promoting change. Other organizations have also been active in the West End such as the Spence Neighbourhood Association, West End BIZ, Winnipeg Housing Rehabilitation Corporation and Lazarus Housing. Like HOP, all of them understand the value of helping bring more stability to a neighbourhood by encouraging and stimulating increased homeownership. 

A portion of HOP’s logo is “Bringing Hope for Home Ownership,” which is an apt description of its homeownership program. New homeowners encourage and set the stage for others to settle on streets where the number of homeowners had formerly been in decline. The beauty of renewal is that it can act as a catalyst for others to make improvements. Langside Street is a perfect example of this effect. Over the past few years, new homeowners have helped with a positive turnaround inspired by the sense of hope that leads to a better community where quality of life is not compromised.

New HOP homeowners come to appreciate and understand that others will follow them with the same aspirations and become willing investors of their hard-earned dollars in the West End. 

What HOP and other organizations have been able to achieve in the West End was reinforced by Reverend Harry Lehotsky during a lunch hosted by the Frontier Centre. It was appropriately held at the totally renovated and resurrected Ellice Café and Theatre, a Lehotsky project. Billed as an inner-city activist and agent of change, Lehotsky was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer and given scant weeks to live. 

Lehotsky talked of his family’s humble beginnings in the city’s West End in the 1980s, the founding of his New Life Ministries Church on Maryland Street as well as the eventual establishment of  Lazarus Housing which has renovated 22 derelict properties and made them available for single-family owner-occupancy. 

HOP and Lazarus project managers have often collaborated on housing renewal to learn from each other’s experiences and expertise so they can ultimately provide better homes. It is not uncommon for both groups to have acquisitions and homes under renovation next to each other or within the same block. 

Lazarus’ community renewal efforts include managing 100 refurbished rental units and transitional and emergency shelter. In the Spence neighbourhood, housing meetings are ongoing. Not only are these meetings usually held at the New Life Ministries, but Lehotsky is an integral part of the discussions and planning process for projects.

Lehotsky also helped set up the Community Improvement Association. Here is an acronym coined by one West End resident for a CIA communication:

W – Witness (good and bad, struggle and inspiration).

E – Enjoyment (it can be fun living and working here).

S – Salvage (home improvement, doing more with less).

T –Tolerance (diversity, yet people get along well).

E – Elders (appreciation for wisdom and experience of seniors).

N – Novelties (specialty restaurants, shopping, entertainment).

D – Determined (hard-working and persevering 

people).

HOP has been extremely fortunate to work with agents of change like Lehotsky. Change is a continuing dynamic that needs constant vigilance to ensure positive things happen.