70th anniversary of MHBA

When the Winnipeg Real Estate Board (now WinnipegREALTORS®) celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2003, it commissioned professor David Burley of the University of Winnipeg to do a history of Winnipeg housing in the 20th-century.

The special project included photographs compiled by curator Candace Hogue to support Burley’s historical information. The resulting storyboards are now housed on the third floor of the Millennium Library just outside the local history room. A copy of Burley’s written transcript for the commemorative project is also available as a reference document at the downtown library’s local history room. 

One of the most notable trends highlighted in the display was the inexorable rise of people’s preference to own a home. Over the course of 100 years, the proportion of Winnipeggers living in their own homes doubled. When you compare the 2006 Canadian Census with 2001, the number of homeowners had increased to the highest level in Canadian history. Certainly improved job opportunities, economic growth and mortgage financing have all been important factors that have encouraged more Canadians to avail themselves of the opportunity to own a home.  

However, let’s not forget those who built the homes and developments where the homes were built. Fittingly, the Burley and Hogue project, entitled: City and Suburb: Housing in Twentieth-Century Winnipeg, was first prominently displayed at the main entrance level in the Winnipeg Convention Centre as part of the Manitoba Home Builders’ Association’s 2003 Home Expressions Show. The public response was terrific and demonstrated how Winnipeggers love their housing — new or old, in either the inner city or suburbs.

This year marks the MHBA’s 70th year building homes and neighbourhoods in Winnipeg. As part of the anniversary celebrations, the MHBA will be producing a book highlighting significant milestones and activities, including pictures of its instrumental role in building Winnipeg and other Manitoba communities.

Burley’s history of Winnipeg’s housing touched on the importance of new developments and housing construction. Here are a few excerpts from his transcript.

“Wildwood Park, developed in the late 1940s, reversed what had conventionally been public and private to create a strong, inward sense of community.  Rather than let the street set the public face of houses, homes were built in a series of bays to look across pedestrian walkways and parks at one another.

“The plan for Wildwood Park, innovative as it was, was not picked up in other major developments. More common was the survey for Windsor Park. The aerial view revealed an alternative to the rectangular grid. A series of bays and crescents were tied together with a limited number of main entry roads, only a few of which went straight through the subdivision. As a result, even such a large development as this remained apart from the surrounding city. This form, separated subdivisions strung along major traffic arteries, characterize many developments from the 1950s and 1960s.

“The Southdale development introduced a new feature to suburban living, lake-front property. These houses, part of the 1966 Parade of Houses, ranged in price from $20,000 to $50,000, and besides their location they included such innovative features as private sundecks, sauna baths, coloured bathroom fixtures, and screen patios. The real estate section of the Winnipeg Tribune (June 2, 1966) was impressed with the style of the subdivision: ‘These new homes in Southdale give Greater Winnipeg a Riviera-like look.’”

This weekend MHBA will be recognizing the winners of the Fall Parade of Homes. Home prices have changed significantly since 1966 — display homes featured this year range in price from $173,412 to $1.2 million. 

Some of the developments featured in this year’s parade include Royalwood, Sage Creek, River Park South, Amber Trails, River’s Edge Estates, Pritchard Farm Southlands, Canterbury Park, Crow Wing Developments, Algonquin Estates, and Harbourview South. 

Over the last few years, another major change for the MHBA has been its recognition and support of the renovation market, a growing segment of the residential construction industry. MHBA has its own Renovators Council whose members will be presenting the second annual RenoMark Renovation Parade on Sunday, October 14, which will feature seven outstanding renovations from various Winnipeg neighbourhoods. For more information, call the MHBA office at 925-2560.

The MHBA is the oldest association of its kind in the country and since its inception has been committed to quality, service and integrity in its dealings. 

The MHBA was formed 70 years ago by Frank Lount, Walter Bergman, Henry Borger, Henry Perhson, Walter Senicki and Frank Major, during a meeting in a basement of an office building on Spence and Broadway. 

The first recorded president was Lount (1945-46  and 1949-50). Lount was a prominent builder in Tuxedo during the 1930s and 1940s.

During the 1950s, homes would be built through marketing initiatives, a change from the word-of-mouth that had been the norm in previous years.

The MHBA was formally incorporated by Dr. David Friesen, John L. Thompson, and Irvin J. Cohen in 1958.

In 1965, Allan Borger Sr. started the new development in Windsor Park with man-made lakes.

Houses were built differently in the ’60s, when builders had their own pre-fab shops where they made walls that when completed were transported to the construction site and put up by carpenters. Houses went up quickly as a result of this building system.

During this period, very few houses were built on a “pre-sold” basis. Instead, the home builders would themselves take out 20 to 50 mortgages and then build the homes to be sold. 

In the 1970s, home builders Jim Dudar, Ian Sullivan and Phil Young went to the United States to investigate a prominent home show. After a meeting with the American organizers, the three men decided to buy the show and bring it to Winnipeg — the show was Home Expressions.

The 1970s were also a time of social concerns. Many home builders brought much-needed housing to Northern Manitoba as well as low-income housing to urban centres.

The 1980s saw another large development opened in Lindenwoods by Genstar.

In the 1990s, housing starts dwindled due to the introduction of the GST.

In late 2000, renovators were accepted into the association and the MHBA took on the responsibility of increasing awareness of their profession.

In 2007, amended regulations to the Workplace Safety and Health Act had a positive effect on safety procedures for all workers.

Today, the newest development in Winnipeg is Sage Creek, while the new Waverley West development is expected to soon get underway. 

A challenge facing today’s 300-member MHBA is the shortage of skilled labour needed to keep up with the strong demand for new homes.