The provincial government is selling off a Manitoba Housing high-rise apartment in downtown Winnipeg that’s been vacant for the last two years.
The province announced Monday they’ve negotiated a request for proposal for a realty firm to market and sell off the 21-storey, multi-unit building at 185 Smith St. that’s sat empty since a water main rupture in 2015 forced all tenants to be relocated.
“We’ve determined this vacant property is the wrong building for us to invest in to renovate and re-tenant,” said Families Minister Scott Fielding, in a release. “It requires major repairs and does not have the right configuration of units to support a quality social housing program. Due to the $500 million in deferred maintenance costs our government inherited, we want to make smart investments and ensure our limited housing resources are invested strategically to meet Manitobans’ needs, rather than having public assets remain idle.”
Manitoba Housing has owned the building since it was built in 1973. It contains more than 300 bachelor and one-bedroom units. The province says building systems have been repaired since the water main rupture, but given the size of the structure, it would cost more than $20 million for the province to completely renovate to Manitoba Housing specifications.
“We believe our buildings should contain a healthy mix of unit sizes that are conducive to vibrant community living. Our preferred model involves smaller projects integrated into neighbourhoods that reflect a mix of incomes and tenant demographics,” said Steven Spry, chief executive officer of Manitoba Housing, in the release. “It is unlikely Manitoba Housing would choose to build a facility like 185 Smith today.”
The minister noted that since the Smith Street building was vacated in 2015 and tenants were relocated to empty units in other properties, Manitoba Housing has added more than 500 new social and affordable housing options to its stock.
More than 130 social and affordable housing units are currently under construction, he added.
The sale of the building at 185 Smith St. will allow the Department of Families to focus on shelter affordability programs through Manitoba Housing and other initiatives like Rent Assist, Fielding said, adding the government has invested an additional $36 million in Rent Assist and thousands more low-income Manitobans have signed up for the program.