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Province’s $67M slated for public housing repairs fall short of need: advocate

Manitoba announced it’s spending millions to fix some of its public housing, but that money is a drop in the bucket compared to what’s needed, an advocate says.

Kirsten Bernas of the Right to Housing Coalition said it’s great to see the province planning to spend money on social housing upgrades, but that money isn’t enough.

“We need to do a lot better than what the announcement shows today,” said Bernas in an interview on Wednesday. 

The provincial government plans to spend $67 million to support 89 Manitoba Housing major repair projects, it announced in a news release Wednesday.

Those projects include exterior retrofits, interior renovations, repairs to driveways, parking lots and walkways, mechanical, structural and security improvements and more.

And that’s on top of the $30 million regular repair and maintenance budget allocated for this year, Families Minister Rochelle Squires said at a news conference Wednesday.

But given previous assessments and the amount of social housing the province has, these numbers fall short, Bernas said.

“This isn’t enough if we’re going to maintain the stock that we have,” she said.

Bernas said the government has been spending less annually since the Progressive Conservatives came into office in 2016. An assessment the then NDP government completed in 2009 found that it would need to spend $100 million each year for 10 years to keep up with social housing maintenance, Bernas said.

But the government said Wednesday it has only spent $296 million since 2016.

“We’ve obviously, like, failed to live up to that,” Bernas said. “If we’re looking at at least a need for $100 million annual investments … less than $300 million since 2016 isn’t getting us there.”

A headshot of a woman in front of a building.
Kirsten Bernas from the Right to Housing Coalition says that an assessment done in 2009 by the then NDP government found that the province needed to spend $100 million each year for 10 years to keep up with social housing maintenance. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

The $67 million will go toward projects in 15 Manitoba communities, including Winnipeg, Brandon and Selkirk. The money will also fund a six-family housing complex in the Lavallee area of Winnipeg, the province said.

Consumer Protection and Government Services Minister James Teitsma said Wednesday the province has repaired more than 12,000 units of community housing. That’s more than double its 2019 commitment to repair 5,470 housing units by the 2027-28 budget year.

“We are years ahead of our commitment,” Teitsma said at the press conference.

Bernas said the Right to Housing Coalition has also been working with the Manitoba Non-Profit Housing Association to determine how many housing units are needed in the province. 

“For Manitoba, we’ve landed at least on their assessment of a need for 10,000 units,” Bernas said. That’s for over 10 years, she added.

“We’re really concerned about our overall supply of social housing in the province. We know we don’t have enough, and we’re concerned that we’re losing the stock that we have.”

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