|Many of the homes in this community were built in the early 1900's. This community has historically been a "starting place" for immigrants. Over the years families and different ethnic groups have built homes, families and lives in this community. Our diversity is a strength in this community!
The aging housing stock, however, requires thorough revitalization. Rising heating costs paired with lack of insulation, aging windows, electrical, plumbing, heating and roof systems eliminate half-baked solutions. We start with the cheapest, worst homes - gut them - and totally renovate them.
This has the effect of renewing the viability of our housing stock for many years, rather than a basic "splash & dash" which looks great on the surface, hiding aging problems under fresh drywall & paint.
|Owner Occupancy: Through the Winnipeg Development Agreement, several housing groups (including Lazarus Housing) started on a program of renovating homes for owner occupancy. It is important to continue this work to take full advantage of the help offered by CMHC & the Royal Bank in flexible financing for up to 50 homeowners of renovated owner-occupied renovated housing in our neighborhood over the next 5 years. The owner occupied housing stock in our community needs support because here, as in any other community, it forms a stable, committed core of residents in contrast to the transiency and lack of feeling of "ownership" in much of the rental properties. Initially, we had to finish a home before being able to market it - usually with the help of realtors. Now, having seen the finished product, people are committing to the homes before they are renovated and the homes are being sold without any attempts at marketing them.
Rental, Transitional and Emergency Supportive Housing: Through the CMHC RRAP program New Life Ministries was able to renovate a 27 suite (batchelor & 1 bedroom) apartment block on Maryland, and for awhile they also managed several units for Manitoba Housing. For New Life Ministries, the range of their involvement and experience and their residency in the community uniquely equipped them to provide an atmosphere of socially supportive housing - as opposed to simply "affordable" housing. The church is already committed to local rental management through this project and the demand for their units far exceeds the supply. They have families with up to two children living in a large one-bedroom suite just because of the safety and social supports they feel renting there. The Federal government is the primary funder for this New Life Ministries initiative (through their SCPI Homelessness funding), with some support from the provincial and municipal governments (through the Winnipeg Housing and Homelessness Initiative). The goal is to renovate and manage 100 units of local housing in this manner.
Rent-To-Own: Some people want to move beyond rental but, for a variety of reasons, are not quite ready to move directly into owner-occupancy as traditionally defined by financial institutions. Many of these people would do well in a situation that allows them to rent for 5 years, and then purchase the house. Winnipeg Housing Rehabilitation Corp is renovating homes for this purpose. This allows for some homeownership education as well as some legal protections against "flipping" the home.
|There are a number of criteria which were developed by New Life Ministries in the revitalization work of Lazarus Housing to this point. We are still following them as general guidelines. Following is a summary of our approach in site selection.
At present our work is focused in the Spence Community (for this purpose defined as Balmoral - Agnes, Portage - Notre Dame). This is because funding is restricted to the three highest need areas. It would be good however if a limited number of projects were allowed in the "next worst" areas, to prevent accelerated decline (more people selling and moving) & devaluation of property (making it harder to recover costs on the renovated home)
We insure that the house is structurally sound via inspection and engineers reports. We also get an idea of what it would cost for us to undertake a total "gut & rehab" of the facility.
At present we are limiting our attention to homes which can be acquired for a maximum of $10,000. Anything which costs more to acquire, leaves even less for the actual renovation of the home, or implies the need for lower quality renovations or higher level of subsidies. Neither of these are realistic options.
Maximizing impact of each renovation:
This can happen in several ways;
- Stay as close as possible to the blocks & houses already being renovated & sold.
- Intervene in situations where a cluster of well-kept owner occupied or rental properties is threatened by one or several derelict problem properties. It is better to intervene before those people despair & scramble to leave. Focusing on one or two blocks is good as a starting approach, but not to the neglect of some of the pockets of people and investment already made in the neighborhood.
- Target available homes on image routes through the area. It is hard for people to believe that revitalization is taking place if it is in a place that few people see. Despite work on over 10 homes to this point, the comment is still made that "it still looks the same." In many other cities across North America, there was a concerted effort to focus on streets with the highest foot and auto traffic.
- Target houses which can be saved from demolition. Demolition does nothing to stop the deterioration of the tax & population base in the community. Much time and many subsidies will pass before infill compensates for demolished properties. The social costs of demolition have been horrendous. Less houses mean less families, which means less children in schools, which means less funding for staffing, and less programs for kids.
- Targeting the "worst of the worst" has the greatest visible & "morale-boosting" effect.
c/o New Life Ministries
514 Maryland Str,
Winnipeg, Mb R3G 1M5
Rev. Harry Lehotsky
|A Housing Plan for Winnipeg's West End|
|Developing a variety of housing options|
|Site Selection - Which homes do we renovate?|
|Above: A west end home (formerly condemned & ready for demolition) recently renovated by Lazarus Housing|
|To help with further development of this housing plan, e-mail or phone us (204-775-4929)|
|If infill is pursued, keep it in keeping with the character of the rest of the homes in the area. Infill should be primarily single detached homes. Rowhouses, for example with their lack of even a little space between residences, diminish the sense of individual character & personal space already lacking in high-density inner city neighborhoods. The exception to this could be in sections of the community where the character has already been violated with newer buildings and the hands of time will not allow us to go back (i.e., Langside between Ellice & Portage).
Front and back entries in older communities seem to fit better and look friendlier than the side entry style of suburban development, providing more potential for social interaction and safety (fire, etc.) than is normally perceived to be needed in suburban developments.
Other factors being equal, priority should be giving to delivering the infill homes through local community renovation crews with capacity to deliver the project - otherwise the sense of ownership in the changes in community is greatly diminished, and the "sour grapes" factor is enhanced. If the community feels involved & engaged by the project the viability of the development is greatly enhanced.
|What about infill on vacant lots?|
At present the city is still demolishing more housing units each year than are being renovated. The present pace & process of demolition will speed Winnipeg toward a shortage of housing - especially in the core of our city. Many of these demolitions are not necessary and a knee-jerk response to safety and image concerns, lack of engineering expertise or capacity to renovate.
We also often hear a naive misrepresentation of economics of renovation versus infill. The costs of new infill construction re our area has been in the area of $105,000 for an 1,100 sq foot home. This figure does not include the figures relating to the previously demolished property (which for an accurate comparison should be included as well). The cost of lost back-taxes, demolition and vancant lot maintenance fees can often add another $10,000 to the cost of choosing infill over renovation. At present, we have come nowhere close to this amount on any of our totally gutted and rehabilitated homes.
There is seemingly little thought being given to the fact that the city is demolishing a portion of its tax base that will take many years (and incredible subsidies) to replace.
The process of demolitions proceeds in an often uncoordinated fashion. In one recent case, one owner applied for a permit to pursue renovation, but on the same day service disconnects were being done on his property (illegally and ahead of schedule). While we were able to halt the demolition with the support of an engineers report (at our expense), these "disconnects" rendered the engineer-approved renovation plan unviable because the "re-connect" would add $5,000 to the cost of the project.
Talking to community groups without expertise or capacity to renovate will provide a very predictable support for demolition (primarily because of lack of expertise and lack of understanding implications of their actions). We often hear comments like, "It's ugly. Somebody should tear it down. Let's have another community garden." These comments are anecdotal (not informed by important relevant factors) and should not overrule the information of groups with expertise and capacity to renovate.
We are asking for a moratorium on demolitions (notices, tendering, disconnects & demolitions) until local renovating crews are given opportunity to assess the viability of renovation along with an actual engineer. We will have to talk about how to cover engineers' costs, but this will provide for a more informed & financially responsible process and slow our slide into a housing shortage.
Action on derelict properties
The Province of Manitoba recently passed a new Charter Act for the City of Winnipeg which allows the city to pass bylaws relating to the speedier seizing of boarded and derelict properties which are not maintained to a certain standard. These homes will then be offered to non-profits for revitalization.
This is great news for the community! Too many speculators have hampered revitalization efforts by stubbornly holding unrenovated, derelict eyesores until they could gouge renovation groups for more on sale of the homes or until they can profit more from the building. In the meantime they have damaged property values, discouraged investment of owner-occupants, and endangered public safety.
Action on property-tax-delinquent properties
At present, this takes up to one and a half years after the city commences proceedings based on three years tax-deliquency. This is a 4.5 year delay. This allows slum landlords and investors to, in effect, use the city as a bank. There also seem to be many cases in which the city is not moving ahead even on that time schedule. There is word that this process will be sped up.
Winnipeg Housing & Homelessness Initiative (WHHI "Single" Window)
This is a tri-level initiative on housing by the federal, provincial, and municipal governments. It started as "a single window" with a plethora of confusing programs, conflicting definitions, political agendas, and convoluted application processes. Initially, much more was being spent on assembling, housing, equipping, staffing & administration of the "single window" than was actually been put into home revitalization.
More recently, however, the three levels of government have improved their internal coordination at the offices. Each level of government still has different programs with different qualifications and different applications and contracts. But at least we have a central location where we can visit with each one. The work being done through this initiative is quickly becoming a model for other cities.
RRAP funding structure needs improved focus
At present the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program (RRAP) is biased against homeownership and discourages economic reintegration of the community. The program guidelines offer up to $18,000 per unit for rental renovations, but only a portion of $12,000 for homeowner renovation assistance (assistance is maximized to the full amount only if your income is very low and you have enough children of different sexes and ages). It's bizarre because the person whose income is low enough to qualify for the full $12,000 support on homeownership likely will not have a high enough income to qualify for a mortgage.
This is not a program designed for new homeowners! The only way for people to look at new homeownership is to "define" themselves as rentors for a period of years under a "rent-to-own" arrangement and then buy the home later. This complicates matters and adds management costs and problems to the homes as well.
A time-limited, area-specific targeting of a full $18,000 to renovations for direct homeownership would avoid this bias against new homeowners in favor of landlords. It would also be good to allow a percentage of homes in an area to exceed the income restrictions of owners or rentors in order to discourage the "ghettoization" which this program perpertuates. The percentage would ensure that the focus is on focused re-integration, not gentrification.
These adjustments in the program would level the playing field without setting a long-term policy change. This short-term adjustment is needed to restore a balance of homeownership in the highest stressed inner-city communities. The initial effect of higher homeownership ratios on property values and socio-economic integration would do much to increase value and minimize losses of both private and other rental and owner-occupied initiatives.
Need for energy efficient renovations
Sky-rocketing heating and energy costs necessitate closer attention to this issue. To save costs in renovation some groups have not upgraded insulation or neglected to use vapour barrier - setting some future owners up for serious problems with rising energy costs.
Lazarus Housing has benefited from the expertise of NECA (National Energy Conservation Association) trainers in assuring energy efficient renovations on a few of their homes. There needs to be additional support for addressing this concern in projects.
|Maximizing efficiencies of government policy & funding|
|NOTE: This section is steadily evolving...|