New funding for affordable housing in Manitoba

National Housing Day was celebrated on November 22.  A number of events were held throughout Canada to acknowledge the many efforts made to provide Canadians with affordable housing, so that they can have a foundation to achieve a better quality of life.

In Manitoba, National Housing Day was kicked off with a joint housing announcement by the provincial and federal governments about new measures and funding to give Manitobans more access to affordable housing .

The two levels of government announced a two-year agreement whereby close to $67.7 million will be committed by the federal government and more than $21.7 million will come from the provincial government for affordable housing.

“Safe and affordable homes are a foundation that Manitoba families can build on,” said Manitoba Family Services Minister Scott Fielding. “We look forward to construction and renovation work that will bring much needed repairs to rental units across the province, improved housing in northern communities, and better shelter for victims of family violence and seniors in need. Our government is determined to make Manitoba the most improved province in Canada.”

“Our government remains committed to making significant investments in affordable housing, strengthening Canadian communities and helping create jobs and grow the middle class and those working hard to join it,” said Winnipeg South MP Terry Duguid, the parliamentary secretary to Jean-Yves Duclos, federal Families, Children and Social Development Minister and the minister responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation ( CMHC). “We are providing better places for families, seniors and individuals to live and grow, and building a strong foundation for a sustainable economic future.”

This new funding is in addition to a $166-million joint eight-year commitment by the two levels of government under the Investment in Affordable Housing (IAH) agreement.

Of particular to interest to two REALTOR®-led home ownership initiatives — Manitoba Tipi Mitawa and the Housing Opportunity Partnership (HOP) — was the issuing of a Request for Proposal (RFP) on homeownership.

Both of these nonprofit housing providers are expected to submit proposals in response to this opportunity for homeownership funding.

Also welcomed was the announcement of ongoing funding for much needed affordable and refurbished rental accommodations in Manitoba. Giving a family an opportunity to access homeownership, and to build equity, frees up affordable rental units for individuals unable or not interested in owning a home.

As we all know, first-time buyers are now challenged more than ever due to the need to meet a new higher stress test standard to qualify to purchase a home in Canada. Higher house prices are putting homeownership out of reach for many low- to moderate-income Manitoba families, so availability of homeownership assistance programs in partnership with housing providers increases the possibility of attaining the dream of homeownership.

The RFP means that funds may be accessed for the acquisition, rehabilitation or construction of homes to be sold to eligible buyers. The submission deadline is December 22 this year.

Another important development on the housing front for Manitoba and Canada was the federal government’s release of a report — prepared by the Conference Board of Canada as part of an extensive public consultation process — to shape a national housing strategy. This was released by Families, Children, and Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos on National Housing Day. 

A comprehensive strategy will be finalized and unveiled in 2017. According to the Canadian Housing Renewal Association, a leading national association advocating for provision of affordable housing, the report “includes creation of a separate indigenous housing strategy, eliminating homelessness, setting clear outcomes and targets, improving data collection and research, and delivering long term and predictable funding”.

A number of REALTOR® associations, including the Canadian Real Estate Association, made submissions to the federal government on the national housing strategy consultation process. Their concerns and recommendations will be covered in a future column.