HOP making a difference in city’s West End

To celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary, Habitat for Humanity is in the process of building 150 homes across the country, with 25 of those homes being built by Habitat for Humanity Manitoba, beginning on July 9 and ending on July 14. Many of the new infill homes are being erected on Lyle St. in St James.

And to help make one of the largest Habitat builds more special, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, are coming to Winnipeg for the second time to participate.

WinnipegREALTORS® has fond memories of Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, who headed up a Habitat 18 home-building blitz in Winnipeg in 1993. At the time, the industry association was celebrating its 90th anniversary and stepped up to build Habitat’s 90th home as part of this major effort. It raised $50,000 to build its sponsored home in Lord Selkirk Park, which made it possible for the Gomez family to become first-time homeowners.

As a result of witnessing all the community building goodwill generated to make the 1993 Habitat project successful, WinnipegREALTORS® realized there was a need to do more for neigbourhood renewal in our city to reverse the decay and deteriorating condition of some of the oldest housing stock in the country. While it embraced Habitat’s commitment to homeownership as a way to lift people up and build a better future for their family, the association also saw needs that were not being met to address decreasing house prices.

Less than a year late, WinnipegREALTORS® president-elect Cliff Palmer and staff member Peter Squire heard a presentation from the Columbus Housing Partnership (CHP) during a national meeting of REALTORS® in Ottawa. It was decided there and then that WinnipegREALTORS® needed its own housing partnership based on the Columbus model.

Essentially, the message from Columbus was that you needed to form a solid housing partnership of committed stakeholders in order to go into a neighbourhood under stress and stabilize it by acquiring dilapidated homes, refurbishing them and the selling of the transformed homes to first-time home buyers.

After countless meetings, including a trip to Columbus to see first-hand how the Columbus Realtors had set up and made CHP a going concern with sustainable funding, WinnipegREALTORS® formed the Housing Opportunity Partnership (HOP) in 1997.

A key funding source to launch HOP was obtaining money collected by the provincial government from interest earned from real estate broker trust accounts. This came about as a result of convincing the provincial government in 1996 to make a special provision in The Real Estate Brokers Act to allow interest money collected to go towards not-for-profit as HOP in order to promote affordable homeownership and area revitalization. It was also fortuitous that HOP received $500,000 over three years from a Winnipeg Development Agreement Home Equity program.

A third major supporter was WinnipegREALTORS®, which provided initial seed funding of $25,000. The association continues to spearhead the entire program through Realtor and staff involvement.

A fourth supporter over many years has been Manitoba Housing. HOP has forged a strong partnership with Manitoba Housing over the last 17 years, which has enabled 90 families to achieve their dream of homeownership with the help of down payment assistance and market gap funding.  

The first HOP home sold to a modest-income family was in Winnipeg’s West End in 1998

The net result of our combined efforts has proven to be cost effective and transformative, not only for the families who have purchased one of HOP’s homes — many of whom are newcomers to Canada — but also for the neighbourhoods HOP has targeted in the West End. They have benefitted directly from a more balanced distribution of rental and ownership housing options.

What cannot be stressed enough is how HOP has been instrumental in reversing a decline in good-quality affordable housing. Its strategic targeting of streets, blocks and homes has been successful in instilling hope for positive change and been a catalyst for others to reinvest and upkeep their properties.

Go to hopwinnipeg.ca to see the grid map of homes HOP has been involved in the West End since its inception.

So where is HOP in 2017? It is seeking to source funding from Manitoba Housing’s affordable homeownership program, which is expected to be rolled out in the coming months.

Meanwhile, HOP is very proud to be putting its support behind this year’s Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project. After all, if it was not for the inspiration and energy WinnipegREALTORS® received from the first Carter build in 1993, the seeds of HOP may never have germinated.