REALTOR® homeownership initiatives a win/win for everyone involved

By Peter Squire

The Winnipeg Regional Real Estate Board was proud to put on a Halloween-themed fundraiser for the Manitoba REALTORS® Shelter Foundation last month as part of its ongoing effort to help support local shelter organizations such as Siloam Mission and Main Street Project. The annual event is called Gimme Shelter and has raised over $347,000 since the Board held its first one back in 2010 on St. Patrick’s Day. Over $12,000 was raised at this year’s event.

Gimme Shelter supports a broad spectrum of shelter options in an atmosphere of dignity and respect to help individuals achieve stability and make meaningful gains in mental health, physical health and addiction recovery.

The Manitoba REALTORS® Shelter Foundation, which the Manitoba Real Estate Association (MREA) originally set up in 2008 and still operates successfully today, has donated over $500,000 to 39 shelter-related charities since then. In 2021, REALTORS® donated a total of $35,678 to support families and individuals in need of shelter. Some organizations that received grants last year from the foundation include Habitat for Humanity, Immigration and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba, Esther House, SEED Winnipeg and Manitoba Tipi Mitawa.

The last grant recipient cited, Manitoba Tipi Mitawa, was established by key REALTOR® leaders in our province through MREA. Harry De Leeuw and Lorne Weiss have been very active at all levels of real estate over many years and this program became a special project and effort of theirs to make possible. Key MREA staff have been instrumental in its success as well, such as former CEO Brian Collie, and current CEO, David Salvatore, and Jill Johnston, Director of Operations.

Manitoba Tipi Mitawa is a partnership of MREA and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, and was created to help First Nations families purchase their first home by providing guidance and support through educational and financial assistance. To date, 32 families have been able to buy their first home because of this targeted homeownership program. More families are being educated and qualified to purchase a home and then paired up with a REALTOR® to make their dream of homeownership a reality. 

For the first time this year, a Manitoba Tipi Mitawa buyer, Lindey Courchene, bought a Housing Opportunity Partnership  (HOP) infill home in the William Whyte neighbourhood of Winnipeg. What makes this a win/win for homeownership is both local non-profit housing initiatives have been created and led by REALTORS® since the very beginning. You would be hard pressed to see the same situation represented in other cities across the country.

HOP was created by the Winnipeg Regional Real Estate Board in 1997 and is now an independent housing non-profit provider dedicated to building infill homes for first-time buyers. HOP is closing in on the milestone of completely refurbishing or building 100 brand new infill homes since it started helping homebuyers to buy their first home in inner city communities such as the West End, Centennial and the North End.

For the last number of years, HOP has been building two-storey, 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath, 1,102 square foot energy-efficient homes. More recently, they are now constructed as visitable homes with the primary focus of building on vacant lots donated by the City of Winnipeg. The Winnipeg Housing Rehabilitation Corporation helps HOP create these new infill homes while requiring high standards of construction so all building code requirements and design specifications are successfully met, and any detected deficiencies are corrected.

Amidst the pandemic, which caused construction material cost increases along with product shortages, HOP successfully completed construction of two infill homes in the William Whyte Neighbourhood which were sold to families in need. In addition to HOP’s own contributions, financial assistance was provided by all levels of government, along with the Manitoba Securities Commission. Both homes were enrolled in Efficiency Manitoba’s New Home Program and were constructed to be 24% more energy efficient than the average newly built home. Energy efficiency is an important goal for HOP to ensure long-term affordability despite increasing energy costs. HOP currently owns four vacant lots located in the William Whyte, North Point Douglas and Centennial neighbourhoods, and hopes to develop those lands by 2024.

Given the current social and economic state, and a difficult real estate environment for those of modest income, the need for affordable housing continues to grow. Homeownership is a dream that many will never be able to experience without the help of organizations like HOP. Working together and building positive partnerships with other like-minded organizations such as Manitoba Tipi Mitawa, HOP continues to pursue future affordable housing development for those in need.

HOP’s mandate has always been to renew or replace older housing stock and revitalize these inner-city neighbourhoods. Homeownership is well-known to be a stabilizing influence in any neigbourhood.

To bring it back to the Manitoba REALTORS® Shelter Foundation and how REALTORS® are committed to helping people achieve homeownership through Manitoba Tipi Mitawa and HOP, it is fitting that REALTOR® Clara Mitchell Enns, a well-established and experienced REALTOR® in Winnipeg who also serves on the Foundation’s board of governors, is the REALTOR® behind helping a single Indigenous mother with four children buy the newest HOP infill home.

“After losing out on a number of homes which became too expensive and out of reach for my buyer in multiple offer situations, we came across the realization that HOP had a new home for sale at a more affordable price for her to consider, and she cannot be more delighted that we were able to make it happen for her,” said Mitchell Enns. “I sincerely hope this is just the start of more successful collaborations between Manitoba Tipi Mitawa and HOP as they are both local housing programs that Winnipeggers should be proud to support and champion.”

“Being a single parent and facing a challenging housing market, I started this process with little confidence of finding a home within my budget,” said Courchene. “With the support of Manitoba Tipi Mitawa (MTM) and an excellent REALTOR® that helped to forge a unique partnership between MTM and the Housing Opportunity Partnership (HOP), I was able to purchase a beautiful brand new home that happily exceeded my family’s expectations. We are truly thankful to have received support from both programs!"

Peter Squire is the Winnipeg Regional Real Estate Board’s Vice-President External Relations & Market Intelligence.