HOP initiative promotes revitalization of community


Housing Opportunity Partnership (HOP) president Lori Thorsteinson said the WinnipegREALTORS®-initiated not-for-profit neighbourhood housing revitalization initiative is determined to reach a total of 100 reclaimed or new infill homes as part of its legacy to renew the West End. 
HOP has acquired and rehabilitated or built as infill nearly 90 homes since it began in 1998. In that first year, one home was acquired and rehabilitated to commence HOP’s mission to reverse the decay in the eastern portion of West End Winnipeg. Home Street (just east of Alverstone) became an important beachhead with many acquisitions and complete restorations to provide affordable housing for low- and modest-income people who otherwise could not afford to buy a home.
“Despite the challenges we face finding infill lots in the West End, it has been well worth the effort, as we have made such a meaningful difference in helping restore an area that was on the cusp of irretrievable decline before we took a very strategic and targeted approach to certain streets and blocks where the pride of homeownership could take root to stabilize the area,” said Lori Thorsteinson, president of HOP.  “We are especially appreciative of our provincial government market-gap financial support, as we need a subsidy for each home to allow us to keep the new infill homes more affordable and within reach of low- to moderate income buyers.”
Articles, such as the one reprinted  below, which was published in a recent Winnipeg Free Press Saturday Homes section, remind the public that there are housing groups rebuilding neighbourhoods that have suffered over the years.  In helping restore these neighbourhoods, the groups offer a critical supply of affordable housing to those unable to buy homes in more pricey neighbourhoods. 
HOP — at long last — acquires 
infill lots on McGee Street
by Todd Lewys
Just call the brain trust at HOP (Housing Opportunity Partnership) a persistent bunch.
Why? Well, once they have a lot in their sights — in this case a pair of lots located next to a former HOP-built home at 390 McGee St. in the city’s West End — they always get their lot (or, in this case, lots).
No matter how long it takes, as it turns out.
“We were after these lots for about two to three years,” said Frank Zappia of the Zappia Realty Group, who works with HOP to acquire lots and to oversee the sale of the homes that are subsequently built on them. “It took awhile to get them, but the big thing is that we now own them. The stakes are up around the lot, and we should be up and going with construction within the next couple of months once we get all the necessary paperwork done.”
Zappia said the acquisition of the lots is going to promote revitalization of the community on two fronts.
“First, having homes here will eliminate dumping (of garbage) on the lots, and will keep unwanted traffic from using them as an entranceway from Agnes Street to McGee and on through to Maryland Street,” he said. “Second, the presence of two brand new homes will spur others in the community to do work on their homes. The new homes will not only revitalize the look of the area, but will also restore community pride. People just naturally start improving their homes when they see new homes go up in the area.”
 HOP’s president, Lori Thorsteinson, said that building infill homes — as well as renovating existing homes when saving them makes sense — is having a resoundingly positive impact on the area.
“The addition of these two new infill homes — they’re extraordinary plans excellent layouts, three bedrooms and quality finishes — will bring us to about 86 or 88 homes that we’ve either built or renovated. Our goal is to hopefully get to the 100 mark in the next few years,” she said. “We’re excited about doing more to turn around the area. When you see the pride in ownership that’s starting to come through, you’re motivated to do even more.”
An example of HOP’s handiwork is the two-storey 1,100-square-foot three-bedroom home that stands in three-dimensional reality at 390 McGee. The owners — immigrants to the city who once rented small, run-down apartments — are thrilled to have a home of their own.
“It’s a dream for people to own their own home,” said Zappia. “They were thrilled to get this home — they were so excited to become home owners. It gave them a chance to put roots down. Most importantly, they didn’t have to rent any more. They now own a home that they can establish roots in. That’s what it’s all about.”
And these aren’t spartan dwellings, either. Finishes include quality flooring (vinyl and carpeting) and laminate counter tops. Each home comes equipped with new appliances, and is energy-efficient with dual-pane windows and a high-efficiency furnace. With an efficient floor plan that features three bedrooms, a good-sized main living area on the main floor and a full basement, families can live in comfort — and with a sense of style — that they’d never conceived of.
“Our goal is to make it affordable for people to own a new home. The price for the new homes going up on the lots here will be about $160,000,” he said. “Previous homes cost about $130,000, but construction and acquisition costs have gone up. Still, it’s a really good deal. By mid-summer, we’re going to have three proud owners living side by side, with another two owners in behind on Agnes Street. It’s all about establishing community through homeownership.”
While Thorsteinson and Zappia are thrilled with the progress made in the West End through their efforts and those of groups in the Spence and Daniel McIntyre neighbourhoods, they acknowledge there’s still much more work to do.
 “Improvements have been made, but there’s still plenty of room for more. Sure, there’s been a fair bit of revitalization, and we’re pleased to have played a part in that,” he said. “But we’ve just scratched the surface. There’s still a lot of work to do, and we want to continue to be a part of it.”
For more information on HOP’s homeownership program, visit www.hopwinnipeg.com or call 784-2352.