More provincial funding needed for HOP to continue its West End revitalization

The WinnipegREALTORS®-established Housing Opportunity Partnership, or HOP, needs more funding to continue its mission to “commit to responsible community revitalization through strengthening homeownership opportunities for low- to moderate-income buyers.”

“With so much talk about the benefits of using infill development to take advantage of existing infrastructure within the city of Winnipeg and to provide affordable housing to meet the demand for an increasing population,” said Lori Thorsteinson, a local REALTOR® and chair of HOP, “it is hard to believe that a successful program that fulfills these criteria is now out of funds.”

HOP began its revitalization work in 1998, and 17 years later, the partnership has completely refurbished or built 88 new infill homes in Winnipeg’s West End neighbourhoods of Daniel McIntyre and Spence. As well, it has acquired and retrofitted two homes in Centennial, bringing its total of completed homes to 90. 

But the partnership also wants to bring its total of new homes to at least 100, which is why it will be seeking further funding from Manitoba Housing.

“We have no guarantee that our funding will be extended, but we are still applying for more funding from the province,” said Thorsteinson.

She said HOP has been so successful over the years in helping to revitalize housing in the West End that the partnership has had to change its emphasis in recent years to infill housing rather that just refurbishing existing homes.

“We’ve had a significant impact in the area, so our acquistion costs went up. We had to focus on what is called a tear-down. We acquired boarded-up houses from the city.”

“Infill lot acquisition targeted West End streets, which is where HOP has made inroads in turning around the condition of some dilapidated homes and even a few burnt-out homes,” said Peter Squire, the public affairs director of WinnipegREALTORS®, who also serves on the HOP committee. “In other cases, HOP has been fortunate enought to obtain city surplus lots for one dollar, although they are not often available.

He said more funding is needed since HOP now has 35 pre-qualified buyers on a waiting-list for a home.

“Of course, that is contingent on receiving more funding,” he added.  “As has been the case in previous agreements with Manitoba Housing, market gap funding is required to make up the difference between the sale price and the total acquisition and construction costs.”

HOP was established by WinnipegREALTORS® with the help of seed funding from the Manitoba Securities Commission. The money was sourced from interest earned from deposits on real estate purchases held in broker trust accounts. 

Subsequent years saw all three levels of government step up and provide contribution agreements as part of the tripartite Winnipeg Housing and Homelessness Initiative. 

Recently, other funding has come from Manitoba Housing under the HomeWorks program. HOP has also partnered with the Winnipeg Housing Rehabilitation Corporation to provide necessary contract administration and project management services.  

“This partnership has worked extremely well as shown by the expedited completion of three new infill homes by the end of 2014,” said Thorsteinson. “These most recent build completions and sales were located on Langside, Maryland and Arlington streets.

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” she added. “The city has a new home built on an otherwise vacant property, and in the process gets a new long-term taxpayer.”

Squire said Winnipeg School Division also gains from the existence of the HOP program in the West End.

“The average municipal and school taxes paid before the advent of HOP was $734,” he explained. “The 2014 average for taxes paid jumped to $2,328. The assessment of 87 properties prior to being acquired and rehabilitated by HOP was $2,571,260. By 2014, the assessment was $15.8 million.” 

HOP has enjoyed the support and a good working relationship with the Spence Neighbourhood Association and the Daniel McIntyre/St. Matthews  Community Association. The West End BIZ has always been appreciative of HOP’s commitment, as has New Journey Housing, a resource centre for newcomers to Canada.