Manitoba

'Lost opportunity': Another Manitoba Housing building sits empty in downtown Winnipeg

A government-owned social housing building in Winnipeg's downtown core has been sitting empty for nearly a year — the second such building CBC has found this week.

Government-assisted housing in high demand with 1,699 on wait list for social housing

Christina Maes Nino, a community advocate with the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, said the building could be used for individuals who need supportive housing. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

A government-owned social housing building in Winnipeg's downtown core has been sitting empty for nearly a year  — the second such building CBC has found this week.

The vacant Manitoba Housing building has room for about 40 residents. Together, the two vacant properties have nearly 400 units. That's raising alarm bells among some housing advocates.

"It's just this lost opportunity," said Christina Maes Nino, a community advocate with the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg.

The building has been sitting empty since last June when Syrian refugees, who were living there temporarily, moved out into other housing.

A government spokesperson said the future of the building, which is a former women's shelter, remains unknown. CBC is not identifying the location of the building to protect any women who may move into it. 

The building has an issue with a ventilation system, which makes it "unsuitable" for clients, the spokesperson said.

There are 1,699 people waiting to get into Manitoba Housing as of this week, according to the province.

On Monday, CBC revealed a highrise on Smith Street with 373 units has been sitting empty for more than two years.

"It's frustrating that there is no urgency, there's no sense of urgency within decision makers to make good use of these assets," Maes Nino said, adding the building, which has shared common spaces, would be well-suited for individuals who need supportive housing.
Lorie English wants to see the vacant building turned into a space for homeless women. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

The West Central Women's Resource Centre said it wants the building to be turned into transitional housing for homeless women or a shelter for the vulnerable population.

"There are women being turned away and their only options right now are to return to violence or to access the homeless shelter system," said Lorie English, the centre's executive director.

A 2015 census of Winnipeg's homeless community found at least 1,700 people were experiencing homelessness on one fall night.

English said resources for women fleeing violent relationships in Winnipeg are stretched thin and having living space for 40 could go a long way.

The building's future, like the downtown highrise, will be determined by a provincial review of Manitoba Housing that's underway, the Manitoba Housing spokesperson said.

Families Minister Scott Fielding said the provincial Tories are working on creating a modernized provincial housing plan.

"We are taking the time to work through this and we will ensure a sustainable housing program that meets the needs for our vulnerable populations in Manitoba who depend on us to shelter them in both the long and short term," he said in an emailed statement.

A government-owned social housing building in Winnipeg's downtown core has been sitting empty for nearly a year — the second such building CBC has found this week. 1:18

About the Author

​Austin Grabish started reporting when he was young, landing his first byline when he was just 18. He joined CBC in 2016 after freelancing for several outlets. ​​In 2018, he was part of a team of CBC journalists who won the Ron Laidlaw Award for the corporation's extensive digital coverage on asylum seekers crossing into Canada. Email: austin.grabish@cbc.ca