In January 2005, the WinnipegREALTORS® Association was one of a number of presenters at a Plan Winnipeg amendment hearing to change land for the then proposed Waverley West subdivision from rural to neighbourhood land use. The association spoke in favour of the change due to concern for the well documented and acute shortage of building lots in southwest Winnipeg.
At the time, reports by ND LEA and the city both concluded that, unless more land was made available in the southwest quadrant of the city, there would be no lots for sale in the area within a year. Within another two years, the same would hold true for all of south Winnipeg, an area supplying 70 per cent of all new homes built in Winnipeg, according to the reports.
The association’s own Multiple Listing Service® showed the vacant lot inventory in the city had dropped off significantly. At the end of 2004, there were only 25 residential lots available in the entire city, with only four in the southwest and three in the southeast quadrants of the city. On the other hand, there were over 200 vacant residential lots for sale in the outlying rural municipalities.
Other MLS® data indicated demand for housing in South Winnipeg was brisk with a high sales-to-listings ratio. Based on the Canadian Real Estate Association’s highly successful mls.ca website (now renamed REALTOR.ca), Winnipeg’s southwest quadrant was receiving nearly double the number of page views for MLS® properties than any other quadrant of the city.
It became clear that due to a robust real estate market in 2004 and a positive outlook for more of the same in 2005 and beyond, the city needed to act quickly by making more lots available in the southwest. If action didn’t come soon, the imbalance of demand far outstripping supply would accelerate price increases and force more people to live in the capital region outside Winnipeg’s boundaries. Without action, an erosion of housing affordability was a legitimate concern.
How does one build a sustainable city when people have no choice but to commute further from work and central facilities?
While more infill housing is welcome, it is unrealistic that this type of development would meet the demand for new housing.
It should be pointed out that Waverley West, contrary to what some critics were saying at the time, will not lead to enhanced urban sprawl as it is coterminous with Waverley Heights. Actually, the first phase hugging Waverley is closer to the downtown than well-established developments such as Richmond West, south Fort Richmond and St. Norbert.
In its remarks at the hearing, WinnipegREALTORS® summarized by saying:
“In conclusion, the city of Winnipeg has to move expeditiously to bring on more serviced lots to meet the severe residential lot shortage and strong housing demand well into the future. If it fails to do so, an already extremely tight housing inventory will certainly be exacerbated and people will not have a choice as to where they wish to live. And, it will be for two reasons. There will simply be no available housing for them or only housing that they cannot afford to buy.
“As a strong proponent of giving people the ability and right to choose where they wish to live, the Winnipeg Real Estate Board (now rebranded as the WinnipegREALTORS® Association) stresses the city needs to do as much as possible, within reasonable cost parameters, to provide housing choice options throughout all quadrants of the city. This includes ensuring housing remains affordable throughout the city, given the spectre of continued erosion of affordability, if more supply is not adequately addressed.
The Winnipeg Real Estate Board is committed to all areas of the city growing in an orderly manner to meet demand and does not see the phased-in, contiguous development of Waverley West inhibiting other developments, including infill throughout the rest of the city. Different markets in the city have different buyer segments. It is not as if one development will detract from another. The reality is more lots need to be secured and serviced throughout the entire city or development will go elsewhere.”
The first phase of Waverley West is now being developed — lots are for sale and 16 show homes are on display in this fall’s Manitoba Home Builders’ Association Parade of Homes.
The city of Winnipeg did listen to the concerns of stakeholders, such as WinnipegREALTORS®, and moved forward by allowing the development of Waverley West.
Other developments in South Winnipeg are also proceeding such as Sage Creek just off Lagimodiere Blvd, and Van Hull Estates on the west side of St. Mary’s Rd, in South St. Vital.
As in other new developments throughout the city, new home buyers will determine Waverley West’s ultimate success.
Waverley West’s first neighbourhood is called Bridgwater Forest in honour of Arthur Bridgwater, the chief of the Fort Garry Police Department from 1945 to 1974. Waverley West’s first neighbourhood has already met with initial success as 134 of the first 184 lots released by the province (as a major landowner in the subdivision) have been sold and another 214 lots will be released this month, 54 of which are earmarked for geothermal energy use.
The 3,000-acre neighbourhood of Bridgwater Forest has all sorts of pedestrian-friendly amenities and environmental features .
“We knew Waverley West would be a popular choice for home buyers so it’s important to release more lots to meet the demand,” said Family Services and Housing Minister Gord Mackintosh, when this new neighbourhood was officially introduced. “It’s also the first time in Canada that such a large part of a neighbourhood in a major city will be devoted to geothermal.”
The funds raised by the province from the sale of lots in the new neighbourhood will be reinvested in downtown infill housing.