A new dynamic is unfolding across the country, including Manitoba, according to the newly-released 2006 Canadian Census.
The new dynamic is the influx of immigrants to support population growth. In fact, the census indicates two-thirds of Canada’s population growth is being driven by immigrants.
Manitoba is a standout in this area with much made about Manitoba’s successful immigrant nominee program. The program has resulted in most of the 7,839 new immigrants making Manitoba their home in the first three-quarters of 2006.
Canada has been singled out as having one of the highest net migrations in the world. It is helping offset the decline in the national birthrate which has dropped to 1.5 per cent — well under the replacement rate of 2.1 per cent.
Comments on the Statistics Canada releases reveal interesting facets to the increased immigration in our country since 2001, including economic and social implications and the need to ensure these new Canadians are welcomed and fully integrated into our society.
One of the challenges for the province and Winnipeg is to retain these new Manitobans since they are important to maintaining a very modest population increase (2.6 in Manitoba and 2.7 per cent in Winnipeg).
Another issue raised by WinnipegREALTORS® is: What we are doing to encourage existing Manitoba residents to stay in our province and capital city?
The rental supply is extremely scarce with a vacancy rate hovering around one per cent as of October 2006. The existing housing inventory was limited to only a two-month supply in December 2006, despite a nine per cent increase in MLS® active listings. Winnipeg has also been faced with an acute lot shortage, especially in southwest Winnipeg.
Where do we expect to house all the people we are trying to attract and have settle here?
Jobs may be available for newcomers but safe, clean and affordable housing is another thing that has to be dealt with in a meaningful and constructive way.
WinnipegREALTORS® have said a good supply of clean and affordable housing must be considered a key piece in a successful long-term strategy to attract and retain people.
In addition, all levels of government need to continue supporting homeownership, which is a proven method for families to build equity and financial security in retirement. Affordable housing has also been shown to stabilize neighbourhoods and strengthen communities.
A national housing strategy needs to be developed that reflects a strong federal role in housing, covering the full spectrum from homelessness to ownership.
More federal funding has to go directly towards on-reserve and off-reserve aboriginal housing. The provinces also need to consult aboriginal groups on how to address off-reserve housing needs.
A homeownership program for aboriginals, such as the one the Manitoba Real Estate Association is proposing, is important to address the low aboriginal homeownership rate when compared to the main populace.
Other areas need improvement. Winnipeg has a high percentage of older housing stock in need of repairs and upgrades when compared to other Canadian centres. Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program grants should be sustained — and even increased — to at least target areas and neighbourhoods in need of housing renewal. RRAP needs to cover energy-saving renovations and retrofits designed to improve energy efficiency in older housing units.
Tax changes and reinvestment in real property are needed at the federal level to create more private-sector investment in building and renewing rental units.
Finally, the provincial government has to accept responsibility to do something about its increasing reliance on property taxes to fund our education system. School taxes are becoming increasingly out of line with the rest of Canada and a deterrent to investment in Manitoba.
Just because someone owns a home or cottage does not mean they should bear the lion’s share of responsibility to pay for the increasing costs of a core provincial service — education — that has no relationship to property services.
For more information on this critical issue, go to www.letspayfair.com