By Peter Squire
Attaining home ownership can be a journey, and once achieved, will likely be the largest investment of a Canadian’s lifetime. For some, this journey is less attainable. Fortunately, there are housing initiatives like the WinnipegREALTORS®-formed Housing Opportunity Partnership (HOP) which has been a strong advocate and champion for home ownership through its commitment to providing affordable homes to first-time buyers.
HOP is a true partnership, collaborating with many housing sector providers and key stakeholders such as REALTORS®, builders, financial institutions, mortgage brokers, CMHC, Manitoba Housing, City of Winnipeg, non-profit housing corporations such as Winnipeg Housing Rehabilitation Corporation (WHRC), and on a more grassroots level with the local community associations in whichever neighbourhood HOP is targeting its renewal effort.
HOP was established in 1997 when it received its first tranche of funding from the Manitoba Securities Commission (MSC). The $129,900 came from the interest earned from money deposited in real estate broker trust accounts that MSC collects. Fortuitously, at roughly the same time, a significant funding grant came through from the Winnipeg Development Agreement.
All these years later, HOP has still been able to collect money on a more limited basis from the MSC to help it carry on with its home ownership commitment. However, the provincial government has been the main provider of funding through what is referred to as market gap funding. Through this funding, HOP has made every possible effort to recoup the direct costs associated with each home by claiming the difference between the sale price and the actual costs incurred from the acquisition stage right through to final completion. Costs include house and/or lot acquisition, renovation and/or construction, financing and administration. Through its provincial funding, HOP has also been successful at obtaining financial support to first-time buyers by way of down payment assistance and help with closing costs.
For the last number of years, HOP has been exclusively a new infill builder as acquiring existing homes and completely refurbishing them to a high standard has become cost prohibitive. There is also the major benefit to the new homebuyer of having a home that is far more energy efficient than what HOP was able to achieve in its renovation of older existing homes.
Since HOP began in earnest in 1998, it has invested millions of dollars primarily in the inner city neighbourhoods of the West End. Nearly 90 homes have been completed and sold in neighbourhoods such as Spence, Daniel McIntyre and St. Matthews. The proceeds from the sale of homes are put back into acquiring homes and/or lots to build another home. HOP has contributed over the years to stabilizing these neighbourhoods, as reinvestment in them has helped rejuvenate the housing stock and increase house values significantly.
Currently, HOP is building five new infill homes in the North End neighbourhood of William Whyte. The William Whyte Neighbourhood Association has embraced and supports HOP’s participation in their neighbourhood as they appreciate and understand what this non-profit housing initiative has been able to accomplish in Winnipeg’s West End.
Thanks to the incredible project management and hands-on support that HOP is getting from WHRC, the project is moving along well with 624 Magnus Avenue already completed and sold. The other four brand new infill homes are near completion and all are listed on WinnipegREALTORS® MLS® system. They are 273 Pritchard, 239 Manitoba, 365 Manitoba and 551 Manitoba. These homes are priced from $189,900 to $204,900 and are all
3 bedroom 1.5 bath 1,102 square feet 2 storeys. They are constructed as visitable homes. True to HOP’s original commitment from its very beginning, all homes come with four new appliances. Specific qualifications and conditions to purchase a HOP home can be found at hopwinnipeg.com
What really makes HOP so meaningful for all those directly involved in this positive program is the excitement of the new homeowners who are able to finally purchase a home of their own.
Here is a quote from a HOP homeowner:
“If it were not for the program, I wouldn’t be a homeowner. I had looked at other affordable homes in the area but most of them were rundown or needed extensive renovations. Being able to get into a new home was a huge break for me. It’s a great program and I’m a homeowner because of it.”
The most recent HOP family, who bought 624 Magnus Avenue, could not be happier. The family of seven is proud of their home ownership and are already getting to know their new neighbours. They have put the memories of the refugee camp they lived in well behind them, knowing their journey has ended and their lives have been changed forever.
Peter Squire is WinnipegREALTORS® Vice-
President, External Relations & Market Intelligence.