Housing Opportunity Partnership on the move

Thanks to the foresight and support of the University of Winnipeg’s Community Renewal Corporation, the Housing Opportunity Partnership (HOP) was able to join forces with the Spence Neighbourhood Association (SNA) and Westminster Housing in late 2007 to save four houses on Langside Street, just north of Portage Avenue, that would have otherwise been demolished. 

The community renewal corporation, a development arm of the venerable downtown university campus, is heading up a major project to build a new science complex (includes the Richardson College of the Environment) on the north side of Portage between Langside and Furby. Besides the science complex itself, the site will also accommodate student housing and a day care facility.

Of course, it is one thing to save a few houses, assuming they can be restored and will stay intact upon being raised and relocated, and another to actually do it. “To HOP past-president Tom Yauk’s credit, he was interested in pursuing this new endeavour for HOP,” said HOP president Peter Squire. “In its 10 years of rehabilitating homes in the West End, HOP had never embarked on a project requiring relocation to a new foundation. There is a lot to consider and more risk than normally would be the case.”

To relocate the former 380 Langside St. home to a vacant lot HOP had acquired previously at 421 Victor St., required a significant asbestos remediation effort and new building code standards being applied. Additional costs included demolition of the existing drywall and its replacement, gutting of exterior walls with the insertion of R20 insulation, exterior windows replacement, demolishing a chimney, the removal of front cement steps and a series of fees associated with the house move. Another cost was the engineering fee for the new foundation.

The actual moving of the house cost in excess of $20,000. 

“It was like a ‘parade of home’ with an armada of different vehicles including a police escort, snow plow, hydro trucks etc. to ensure the house sitting on an oversized trailer was safely escorted in the wee hours of the morning,” said Marty Donkervoort, project manager for HOP, when the house was moved in early February to 421 Victor St. 

Three neighbourhoods — Spence, West Broadway and St. Matthews — will have homes that fit the character of the streets, become completely refurbished and sold, or rented in one instance, to modest-income people requiring decent and affordable accommodations. 

One individual who really deserves the credit for getting the project “off the ground” is Don Miedema, the housing co-ordinator for SNA.  He was dedicated to ensuring it would happen despite a few delays or impediments along the way. 

“SNA staff quickly recognized that we could not do the project alone and SNA invited Westminster Housing (WH) and the Housing Opportunity Partnership (HOP) to help,” said Miedema. “ They received funding from the Provincial HOMEWorks program and the move was underway.  

“If you were out in the neighbourhood between midnight and 3:30 a.m., on some the coldest nights of the year, you may have seen the houses move to 580 Furby, 598 Balmoral, 421 Victor and 203 Maryland.  The first three will be fixed up and sold under the conditions of the HOMEWorks program and the last will be made into a duplex or triplex as rental suites, resulting in a ‘win-win’ for all parties.”

As for HOP, the experience gives it more confidence going forward in its next round of house renewal projects. 

In its new project contribution agreement, recently signed through the Winnipeg Housing  and Homelessness Initiative (WHHI), there is allowance to not only rehabilitate existing homes, but to build new infill homes where vacant lots exist or on lots where homes are too dilapidated and run down to be salvaged. 

In fact, HOP is already planning two new infill homes on 531 and 637 Toronto St.

“Going right back to the vision of HOP founder Cliff Palmer, it was always HOP’s expectation that infill housing would become part and parcel of a complete renewal effort in Winnipeg’s West End,” said Squire.