WINNIPEG -- A new rapid housing initiative is being launched in Winnipeg.

Federal Families Minister Ahmed Hussen, Provincial Families Minister Heather Stefanson, and Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman announced funding details on Friday.

Bowman said the federal government funding initially targeted the creation of 49 affordable units, but after a quickly assembled intake and review process by the city, 88 affordable housing units are now being created.

“The entire spectrum of affordable housing in Winnipeg is facing immense pressure on all fronts, and this is creating barriers for people trying to continue onto more independent housing options and to those needing to enter,” Bowman said.

The project will include a focus on people who are experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of homelessness, people dealing with mental health and additions issues, women and children escaping domestic violence, persons with disabilities, and Indigenous people. 

Bowman said according to the city’s recent comprehensive housing needs assessment, the number of households in core need stands at 34,625. Core need represents people spending more than 30 per cent of their gross income on housing. 

“The pandemic has also underscored and worsened housing challenges that existed before the COVID-19 pandemic, so the reality is that the populations in our communities that are most at risk for COVID-19, are also more likely to find themselves in precarious housing situations,” said Hussen. 

The federal government is spending $12.5 million on the initiative, and the funds will be divided between five projects:

  • $1.5 million will go to Siloam Mission for the creation of 20 units of supportive recovery housing for people experiencing homelessness or are at risk of homelessness;
  • $1.5 million will go to New Directions for the conversion of a building which will create nine new supported housing units for people with developmental disabilities;
  • $2.3 million will go to the Salvation Army for the conversion of a building to create 20 affordable transitional housing units for women experiencing homelessness or are at risk of homelessness;
  • $2.8 million will go to Shawenim Abinooji Inc. for the conversion of buildings to create 21 supportive housing units for Indigenous youths who have been involved in the Child and Family Services system;
  • $4.3 million will go to the Winnipeg Housing Rehabilitation Corporation to build 18 affordable modular apartments for women and children experiencing homelessness or are at risk of homelessness.

“We are so fortunate to be a recipient of funding under this program,” said Siloam Mission CEO Jim Bell. 

“This facility is designed to help bridge the gap for those exiting addictions treatment programs and who have no home to return to. Residents will be able to move in directly from their treatment facility, stay in a communal living environment with wraparound supports until they are able to move into permanent, stable housing.”

Hussen said the whole point of this rapid housing project is to have people move in within 12 months or earlier. The federal government is providing the initial funding, but it’s unclear which body will provide wraparound funding once people have moved in.

The funds are part of a larger $1 billion rapid housing initiative from the federal government to support the construction of up to 3,000 permanent affordable housing units across Canada.