Manitoba

Groups demand affordable housing at Kapyong Barracks

The federal government is keeping up to 170 empty homes on an abandoned military base maintained and heated while low-income families in Winnipeg live in "terrible conditions," a housing advocacy spokesman said Monday.

The federal governmentis keepingup to 170 empty homes on an abandoned military base maintained and heated while low-income families in Winnipeg live in "terrible conditions,"a housing advocacy spokesman said Monday.

About 35 people turned upat aprotest along Kenaston Boulevard near the formerKapyong Barracksin Winnipeg to call forthe Department of National Defence to releasethe homestofamilies in need of affordable housing.

Thehouses, some ofabout 350 married quarters on the base,have beenempty for two years, even though there is a critical shortage of cheap housing for families in the city, said the supporters of the River Heights Ministerial Housing Action Group and the Right to Housing Coalition.

"They're living in terrible conditions while these 150, 170 houses sit empty [and] heated," said coalition spokesman Clark Brownlee. "We find that an appalling and a disgraceful situation, and something we think the public, on the whole, really is concerned about."

"It's taxpayers' money that's being spent. They're being heated and maintained while nobody lives in there. We could sure use them right now for our aboriginal families," said Ed Tanner with the Manitoba Urban Native Housing Association.

Kapyong Barracks washome tothe Second Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry until the unitwas relocated to Shilo, about 20 kilometres southeast ofBrandon,in 2004.

In June, Defence Minister Gordon O'Connordeclared all 356married quarterson the base as surplus for military needs, but the final transfer of property to the Canada Lands Co., which oversees redevelopment of surplus Crown land, can take three to five years.

Until that transfer takes place, only reservists, Defence Departmentcivilian staffand other federal employees can renthouses on the former base.