Manitoba

Manitoba Housing turning over management duties for 1,000 more units

The provincial agency responsible for Manitoba's stock of subsidized housing wants to transfer day-to-day management of 1,000 housing units to community-based organizations over the next year. 

Housing advocate worried province may be moving toward selling its subsidized housing stock

601 Osborne St. is one of four buildings where management was transferred this April from Manitoba Housing to community groups. The province says it plans to transfer 1,000 more units within the next year. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)

Manitoba Housing is planning to withdraw as landlord from more of the properties it owns.

The provincial agency responsible for Manitoba's stock of subsidized housing wants to transfer day-to-day management of 1,000 housing units to community-based organizations over the next year, according to a presentation prepared for Manitoba Housing leadership.

When asked for clarity on the pending transfer, the province said it is too early to say which properties would be transferred, how it would happen or what the projected timeline might be.

The Crown corporation's decision follows a move earlier this month that saw management of 567 units shifted to a pair of community groups: the Winnipeg Housing Rehabilitation Corporation and Bethania Group.

Manitoba Housing would continue to own these properties, but would relinquish its landlord responsibilities to suitable community groups.

Rent controls necessary

Based on the management transfer of four buildings at the start of this month, the chair of the Right to Housing Coalition's provincial working group said she's pleased the new companies are required to keep rent affordable.

But Kirsten Bernas worries that transferring management is the first step toward the province selling the buildings.

"Once it's out of the public sector, that responsibility that the Department of Families has through Manitoba Housing to secure low-rent housing for people, that's not a guarantee anymore," Bernas said.

"I think the trend is concerning because of its potential to lead to a loss of those housing assets."

The province said Wednesday it would only consider selling its assets to ensure the long-term sustainability of its housing portfolio.

Other provinces, including Saskatchewan and Ontario, sometimes find non-government groups to manage the properties they own.

Details about the management transfer of 1,000 units were part of a presentation to Manitoba Housing's leadership team last month. A copy of the PowerPoint presentation was obtained by CBC News.

The document notes the province would take the lessons it has learned — and is "still learning" — from the April transfer to ensure "any future transfer of management is done responsibly, effectively and with the required level of support to promote success."

Under a header called "considerations," the province said it would examine non-profits or private sector companies as suitable property managers, while evaluating the needs, demands and capacities of urban and rural arrangements.

Open to other property managers

The presentation suggested the province would consider an open request for proposals, which is how it found management companies for the 567 units, or through an invitation. Indigenous groups and municipalities would be considered as well.

It says Manitoba Housing's repair and maintenance budget for the current fiscal year is $31.6 million, which is a reduction of $2.7 million from the 2018-19 budget. 

The government said that tenants would see minimal changes, besides paying their rent to a new property manager. The province would still cover capital costs, while the new firms overseeing management would handle operational expenses.

They're rushing to convert maybe twice as many units to this new arrangement."- NDP Leader Wab Kinew

In March, the provincial government announced the new community landlords for the 567 units across four Winnipeg properties: 529 Country Club Blvd. and 601 Osborne St. will be managed by the Mennonite faith-based Bethania Group, while 46-60 Chesterfield Ave. and 260 Nassau St. will be managed by the Winnipeg Housing Rehabilitation Corporation.

Those properties were selected after a request for proposals. 

The agreement requires the new property managers provide affordable housing and that all current tenants can remain.

The Winnipeg Housing Rehabilitation Corporation has staff in place in both the locations it will manage, while Bethania Group expects to be fully staffed by mid-May, the province said.

NDP Leader Wab Kinew is concerned the province is rushing through the transfer of management responsibilities from Manitoba Housing to community groups. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

The change is expected to save the province an estimated $540,000 a year, a news release from the province in March said. The news release did not specify how many staff positions would be affected, but all of those staff members would be reassigned, the province said.

The province's website says around 3,700 Manitoba Housing units are currently managed by community groups and 14,300 are directly managed by the department. 

NDP Leader Wab Kinew is disappointed the recent transfer occurred without consulting the tenants on whether it was a good idea. 

He now worries that the province is moving through the process too quickly. 

"The dust hasn't even settled with the government's first round of changes and now they're rushing to convert maybe twice as many units to this new arrangement."

Corrections

  • We initially reported that Manitoba Housing's budget for the current fiscal year is $31.6 million. In fact, Manitoba Housing's repair and maintenance budget for the current fiscal year is $31.6 million.
    Apr 25, 2019 11:32 AM CT

About the Author

Ian Froese

Reporter

Ian Froese is covering the Manitoba provincial election for CBC Manitoba. He previously has reported on provincial politics and breaking news in Winnipeg, Brandon and Steinbach. Story idea? Email ian.froese@cbc.ca.

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