The Municipality of Rhineland continues to explore the concept of taking greater control of affordable housing in the area.
Manitoba Housing is looking for opportunities to transfer its low rental units to communities interested in managing those assets as affordable housing and supportive housing facilities.
A pilot project was established in Winkler where a non-profit organization is now managing 66 units, formerly managed by Manitoba Housing, involving a mix of seniors and family units.
Rhineland reeve Don Wiebe says the time is right for this issue to be examined in his municipality, in which several low rental facilities are located.
"The current vacancy rate in our area is quite high and some units, like the 17 suites in Gretna for example, are completely empty. Rosenfeld is another example. That unit has one tenant right now out of the 10 suites available."
Wiebe would like to see those housing facilities better utilized and suggested that local management of these units might be more effective in creating community housing that fits their specific needs.
"Take immigration for example. Some of the rules that apply to families and the kind of space needed to provide proper accommodations makes some of these housing units, which might be suitable for immigrants, not tenable because of current regulations. So, that raises questions about the viability to refit some of these buildings, if that's possible. You also have to have some understanding of whether this housing will serve local needs and you have to have a group in charge that is in control of it and can manage it. It's kind of an exciting thing, but it needs a lot of work."
Wiebe emphasized that his municipality is not looking to take over Manitoba Housing facilities. Instead, a regional non-profit organization would need to be established to oversee the management of these units similar to the Winkler pilot project.
In April, the Manitoba government endorsed a multilateral housing partnership framework that is designed to set the foundation for federal and provincial governments to create a long-term shared vision for housing.
Part of the province's vision entails the idea of handing off public housing and supportive housing administration to local communities.
"The Winkler project is kind of the model that we're looking at, but more of a regional concept. They have a not-profit group running a variety of housing units and they have a process where the needs of the tenants are identified and they monitor the situation and it seems like its going very well. We just haven't been given a lot of details on how our local communities could connect on a regional scale. That's where we're at," Wiebe said.