This has proven to be a year of uncertainty for several Manitoba communities, with looming job losses, closures and declining populations. But for one western Manitoba town, the future couldn't be brighter.

Dauphin, Man., a small city about 250 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, is your average Manitoba community. It has a main street, a hockey rink and plenty of historical buildings. But unlike some communities, it's going through a building boom.

Dauphin building boom bucks trend of struggling communities1:30

"Before I was even finished my first project I had a lineup to get in," said Mark Kohan, a developer in the western Manitoba city. "Same thing with the second one."

"It's a nice switch to try instead of building something on a total guess."

Kohan is originally from the Dauphin area, but like many, was drawn to the prospects and money further west. He spent years developing properties on the west coast before moving back to Dauphin, where he grew up, five years ago. 

Kohan has been turning renovated buildings along Dauphin's Main Street into single-family and multi-family residential units.

Mark Kohan

Mark Kohan moved back to Dauphin after spending years working as a developer in western Canada. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

"If I had another 10 units or 20 units they would be full," Kohan added. Typically, he'd build something and hope there were people to fill it. 

It's a stark contrast to what has been happening in many other Manitoba communities. The Pas is bracing for the closure of the Tolko paper mill and Churchill has been dealing with the fallout of the closure of the town's grain port. 

City offers $1,000 per door 

According to figures from the city of Dauphin, there have been 37 new housing starts in Dauphin this year alone. Before 2011, the average was just between three and eight new homes. The city boasts more than 200 new housing starts since 2012, a lofty goal set by city council. 

Dauphin mayor Eric Irwin credits the growth to an incentive the city introduced — $1,000 for every new door a developer or contractor builds — enough to cover the cost of the building permit and other costs. 

Dauphin empty lots

These lots, in Dauphin's northeast, are some of the only empty residential lots left. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

"It certainly peaks peoples' interest," Irwin said. "It's paid off. We've had our 200 housing starts."

But all the growth hasn't been without its challenges. All of the growth has left very few lots available for new homes and apartment blocks. A group of five lots in the city's north-east are about all that's left. 

Those new homes and apartments, as well as their residents, also need more city services. 

"It is a challenge but it is not overwhelming," Irwin said. "We haven't had a huge shopping centre dumped onto us ... It certainly has been manageable."

The city said more affordable housing is also needed and a number of apartment blocks are under construction.
Kohan said he too, is currently renovating the second floors of some of the buildings he's working on, turning them into apartments.

Healthcare, construction fuelling boom 

But who is filling these new homes? It's the more than 600 new people that have called Dauphin home since 2011, according to the city. Everyone seems to have a different answer on where they're all coming from. 

Kohan said people he's talked to are coming from as far away as Toronto, many for jobs in the healthcare sector. Dauphin serves as a regional hub for many services, including healthcare. Others are moving back to Dauphin from places like Winnipeg to retire or for a cheaper cost of living. 

Dauphin new homes

One of several homes under construction in Dauphin's north end. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

The construction industry is also attracting workers to the community. Work is underway on an addition at Dauphin's hospital, a new movie theatre and hockey rink have opened in recent years and the city will be the site of a new inland grain terminal. Not to mention the workers needed to create enough housing for the new people in town.

"I was talking to the owners of a metal fabrication company in town ... It's grown over the years," Irwin said. "One of the owners was bragging to me a while ago about how within the previous six months, 12 of his employees had bought houses and 12 of his employees had had babies."

Gary Tkachuk has been a general contractor in town, building houses for about three decades. He has seen his business grow every year for the past five. 

"Every year it gets busier and busier and busier in Dauphin," he said. "When I first started I had one or two employees. Now we're at seven or eight employees." 

"People are wanting to move in from Alberta, B.C. and many other places like that." 

As for when the boom might bust, all three believe it won't be in the near future. 

"It's a clean, neat community and that's why everyone is moving here," Tkachuk said. "It's only going to get better and better every year."