Posted: May 22, 2020 by Jason Halstead in Community stories
For this North End organization, affordable housing is where the heart is
North End Housing Project (NEHP) has evolved as an organization over its 20+ years of work, but one thing hasn’t changed —their commitment to providing quality, affordable housing to Winnipeggers in the North End.
Helping families gain a home
NEHP was founded in 1996 out of the need for decent, affordable housing and the renewal of a neighbourhood awash in abandoned and dilapidated homes. Formed as a non-profit community housing program for lower-income families, NEHP aimed to interrupt the cycle of decline in one of Winnipeg’s lowest-income areas.
Their impact in the first decade was profound. By 2002, the organization was able to purchase, renovate and rent out dozens of North End homes, having received financial support from all three levels of government.
During this time, the organization’s rent-to-own plan helped to make homeownership a reality for many people who wouldn’t have otherwise had that option. After five years in the rental program, tenants could buy their home and assume the remaining mortgage, at a value of about 40 per cent of the renovation costs. Further, if buyers remained in the home for a decade, the government-covered portion of the mortgage was forgiven.
Through this initiative, 148 families were able to become homeowners by 2016.
Rejuvenation of Winnipeg’s North End
I think NEHP really started the ball rolling on the rejuvenation of the North End,” said Mark Fleming, NEHP’s Executive Director, who has been with the organization in various capacities for over a decade. Over this time, NEHP shifted its focus from the rent-to-own plan towards a more straightforward model of renting the properties it purchased and continues to maintain.Currently, the group rents 35 units on 11 different properties, including single-family homes, duplexes and apartments. Six of these properties were purchased over the last three years, and the positive impacts in the community have been far reaching.
“Many people we serve are on the verge of homelessness,” Mark explained. “Many may have burned bridges with landlords and may need a second chance. That’s where we fit in.”
In addition, NEHP operates The Steve Perchyshyn Fire Rescue House in partnership with the Province of Manitoba, the Firefighters Burn Fund, the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service and the Winnipeg Métis Association. Opened in 2009, this three-bedroom house provides temporary, supportive housing for those who have lost their residence to a fire or another emergency.
A better financing partnership
Assiniboine Credit Union has partnered with NEHP since almost day one, which has fit into the credit union’s direction to invest more and to create further partnerships in terms of affordable housing.
There was a time some financial institutions wouldn’t provide mortgages in certain parts of the city,” said Bill Dinsdale, Senior Community Account Manager at ACU’s Community Financial Centre. “ACU has never taken that approach, so we were happy to partner with NEHP. They’ve been an important part of the housing solution in the community.”
Since 2007, ACU has provided NEHP with more than $30,000 in funding, including sponsorships and grants for professional development, strategic planning and office equipment. That partnership has helped NEHP find a more reliable financial position to maintain operations.
“Without ACU’s help and guidance, NEHP probably would have shut its doors. They’re plugged into the community and understand things are a bit different in the North End than they are on a national scale,” Mark commented about the partnership.
“ACU and Bill Dinsdale were really helpful. We remortgaged and moved some mortgages, so ACU is now our exclusive financial services provider. They’ve been fantastic.”
Great properties & smart growth with limited funding
As for the properties themselves, the organization has worked hard to ensure tenants have a place that truly feels like home.
NEHP works hard to keep properties in good condition, whereas some private ownership may not choose to reinvest in properties,” Bill explained. “That sort of thing ripples through the community — it’s just better for the neighbourhood. As Executive Director, Mark has provided stability and has been a very positive influence in terms of stable growth. It’s been a pleasure to work with him.”
NEHP receives no core funding, but does receive some subsidies including several thousand dollars per year from the Province to fight bedbugs, and year-by-year funding from the City for repairs. Expenses are an ongoing concern, as the organization spends between $60,000 and $120,000 on annual maintenance.
While there has been welcome growth in the rental vacancy rate, Mark said there’s still a need for affordable housing. This is evidenced by the fact that NEHP continues to have a waiting list, despite having no advertising and no public ‘for rent’ signs. As an affordable housing option, their rents are pegged with the Province’s median market rents, as part of their agreement with Manitoba Housing.
For Mark and NEHP, their plans include a focus on gradual growth.
“We’re kind of at the point where we’re self-sustainable and looking toward working with the Province down the road when we may have the opportunity to purchase some of the units they’re looking to sell to non-profits. And slowly, we’ll look to purchase a building here or a duplex there when we have enough money.”
If your organization needs assistance with financing, set up appointment and talk with your ACU Advisor who can provide helpful information and guidance.
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