Winnipeg mayoral candidate Gillingham wants affordable housing built on vacant city-owned lots
Gillingham says he'll reduce red tape so that modular units could go up quickly on 6 lots
Winnipeg mayoral candidate Scott Gillingham says if he's elected this fall, he'll transform six city-owned vacant lots into modular housing units to help those experiencing homelessness if elected this fall.
The St. James councillor made a pledge Wednesday to create at least 270 units of modular housing — homes that are built off-site and then transported to a permanent location — using funds from the federal government's rapid housing initiative.
Under Gillingham's proposal, the city would waive permit and land costs, as well as property taxes, while also speeding up the zoning approval process.
"The answer to homelessness is not to push homeless camps from one park to another and expect that homeless people will just find their way," he said during a Wednesday afternoon news conference at 412 Alexander Ave., a vacant city-owned lot that he said was an example of a site where units could be built.
"It's to bring people who need help to secure places where they can safely access help, and to create secure spaces where help can safely access them."
He said he would guide council in pre-selecting the six sites in order to speed up the process. Once built, non-profit organizations would take over ownership and operation of each site, he said.
Good start, but more help needed
In order for the plan to go ahead, though, Winnipeg city council would need to approve the application for federal funding. The province would also have to get on board, Gillingham said.
Manitoba Non-Profit Housing Association executive director Christina Maes Nino said the proposal would be a good start.
But she wishes the city would remove red tape for all affordable housing projects that could get people off the streets and away from living in bus shelters.
For example, some cities waive permit costs and speed up zoning approval processes for all affordable housing projects, she said.
"Just doing it for six lots is definitely not enough," she said.
Developing affordable housing is expensive, which is why these projects are usually funded by multiple levels of government, she said. But cities can play a significant role in reducing costs and red tape.
"That will make a lot of projects much more viable and reduce the amount of funding required from other levels of government."
Gillingham is among 11 people who have registered mayoral campaigns so far in the race to replace Mayor Brian Bowman, who is not running for re-election.
The other 10 candidates are Idris Adelakun, Chris Clacio, Rana Bokhari, Shaun Loney, Jenny Motkaluk, Glen Murray, Robert-Falcon Ouellette, Rick Shone, Desmond Thomas and Don Woodstock.
Election day is Oct. 26.
With files from Sam Samson