A new $188-million three-year provincial government housing program is emphasizing affordable homes for low-income Manitobans, including urban aboriginals, seniors, immigrants and the homeless.
Family Services and Housing Minister Gord McIntosh said the new program is a major change in the government’s housing strategy and replaces the former Affordable Housing Initiative that has run its course.
Programs such as the Winnipeg
REALTORS®-established Housing Opportunity Partnership had previously taken advantage of AFI funds to assist in the purchase, renovation and sale of homes in the city’s West End to low- and modest-income individuals and families.
“It is important that we make decent affordable housing available to low-
income Manitobans,” said the minister at a press conference last Tuesday
at the Kekinan Centre, 100 Robinson St., a residence for First Nations
The minister said the first pillar of the new housing strategy is HOMEWorks!, a $104.5-million, three-year fund targeting affordable homes for inner-city refugees and immigrants, the elderly, northern residents and the homeless.
“This multi-year strategy builds on Manitoba’s aggressive affordable-housing partnerships of the past six years by integrating $61.5 million in federal dollars with $43 million in provincial contributions,” McIntosh said. “Areas of need were identified by stakeholders to provide a stronger foundation for healthy families and communities.
“We want to empower communities who know best about their housing needs. Ordinary Manitobans will be making decisions about where there’s need and then building where there’s need,” he added.
A major component of HOMEWorks! is the Een Dah Aung (Our Home) program which provides $42 million for off-reserve housing.
The minister said the program includes an aboriginal governance and decision-making process to oversee investment.
“Housing has always been an issue in the aboriginal urban community ... particularly for low-income families struggling with the issue of poverty ...,” said Lucille Bruce, the chair of the Kekinan Centre board.
A homeownership component of HOMEWorks! allocates $8.5 million toward newly-constructed and renovated units that meet green standards for energy efficiency and cost-saving operation.
The minister said community proposals that develop housing options for people with mental illness will be given a priority.
McIntosh said the second pillar of the program is to spend $66.6 million to renovate and establish preventative maintenance programs for Manitoba Housing Authority units.
“We have to do a better job maintaining and improving existing social housing stocks,” added the minister.
Some public housing units will be converted into supported-living housing for aboriginal seniors in the North End.
Flora Zaharia, a board member of the Aboriginal Senior Centre which was established only three years ago, said supported-living options for aboriginal seniors is needed because many elderly people still want to live in the neighbourhoods they are familiar with.
McIntosh said the third pillar is called A Roof Over Each Bed which
allocates $3.9 million for emergency and transitional shelter for the homeless in 2007-08.
The minister said the program will provide 44 per cent more in funding for such organizations as the Salvation Army, Neeginan, the Main Street Project and Hannah’s Place at the Siloam Mission.
John Mohan, CEO of Siloam Mission, said the new funding will allow the homeless shelter to build 60 new beds for Hannah’s Place this year and another 105 beds next year.
He said there are now 2,000 homeless people on Winnipeg’s streets and to address their needs all the community’s resources need to be put into play.
“It takes more than just government money to solve homelessness,” Mohan said. “It takes private-public partnerships.
“A community is measured by how we threat and protect our most vulnerable.
“Those who are homeless or in danger of becoming homeless need a safe place to stay,” added Mohan. “Addressing their plight, in part, defines us as a compassionate society.”
McIntosh said the fourth and last pillar will allocate finds for renovations programs. including $4 million to the two-year extension of programs operated in conjunction with the federal government such as the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program, which provides renovation money to low-income Manitobans, and the Home Adaptations for Seniors’s Initiative.
The minister said it is expected that a combined $14 million will be delivered to assist low-income households with repairs, modifications or rehabilitation.