Thursday, November 28, 2013

New University of Winnipeg Housing

New 14 storey apartment behind Buhler Building
The expansion of the University of Winnipeg campus continues at a torrid pace courtesy of its benefactors in government and private donors. The athletic fieldhouse is still under construction with an opening in 2014 scheduled. However, hot the heels of that project is the announcement of the an apartment complex to be constructed south of the Buhler Centre on Portage Avenue.

Parking lot behind Buhler Centre site for apartments
The province of Manitoba is the funder for this $27 million project. At 14 storeys, it will be the tallest building in the University of Winnipeg campus. The 112,000 square foot space will house 102 apartments ranging from 1 through 3 bedrooms. The whole set up on the facility will be for students, many with families, to find accommodation that will match their income. 46 units will be low income, 32 will be rent geared to income, 56 will be market rates with 16 of those being premium units.

This will be somewhat of an experiment as social workers have been taking the government to task for warehousing lower income people in buildings that get run down due to the fact that it feels like it isn't doing any favours for those in need. What social workers have proposed is that a few units of every apartment development be designated for lower incomes or geared to income.

There are some that believe that lower income anywhere will be bad. But is this really true? Osborne Village is a mixed income area. You have posh Wellington Crescent condos and lower income rental units in a high density area and what do they call it: Canada's best neighbourhood.

The loss of a surface parking lot for student housing is a very good thing and it will be interesting to see how the experiment pans out.  The province says the project is self financing and the University of Winnipeg says they will partner with a co-op to run the place and it won't affect the institution's budget. It is possible this is the model of how to leverage money to get work done that will pay for itself. It remains to be seen.

Still, there needs to be something different than Manitoba Housing done. The province could simply put up a $27 million apartment for strictly lower income and not have the same impact as this project will have.

There will quite a number of people watching the project with a critical eye but it could be something that changes how we approach housing for people in the future.

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