The Housing Again Bulletin, sponsored by Raising the Roof as a partner in Housing Again.
A monthly electronic bulletin highlighting what people are doing to put housing back on the public agenda across Canada and around the world, sponsored by Raising the Roof as part of the Housing Again partnership.
News for May, 2005
On the edge in Winnipeg
A vacant heritage building in downtown Winnipeg is being converted into a unique residential and commercial centre containing eight affordable housing units for low-to-moderate income people, as well as studio art space.
The project, known as “The Edge-Artist Village,” is being made possible, in part, with the help of $360,000 in government funding. But, the project is really coming together out of sheer community determination to find innovative solutions to urban poverty.
“Our multi-cultural village will be on the leading edge of creative solutions to the issue of urban poverty, and the financial contributions are an important first steps, said Richard Walls, President of The Edge-Artists Village. “The Edge will bring together the mainstream arts community and the emerging aboriginal arts and cultural community. Through the cultural cluster, the project will build upon the economic engine of cultural tourism and serve as a catalyst to help redevelop this long neglected strip of Main Street.”
Walls is an interior designer involved with heritage re-development in Winnipeg. He is a long-time advocate for affordable housing and is known for coming up with innovative ways to solve urban poverty. This project is one of four urban renewal projects in the area that Walls is developing to create an “arts-friendly environment that focuses on providing affordable housing and employment opportunities.”
Total renovation costs for The Edge-Artist Village are estimated at $816,800. Funding includes $280,000 through the Canada-Manitoba Affordable Housing Initiative New Rental Supply Program, and $80,000 from the City of Winnipeg’s Centre Venture. The Edge-Artist Village is providing additional funding of $116,800, with the balance coming from mortgage financing.
The project involves the rehabilitation of a vacant two-storey heritage building on Main Street between the Disraeli Freeway and Logan Avenue into a combined residential and commercial arts centre. The main floor will serve as a mixed-use art gallery, studio and workshop, and classroom. Space will be available for rent to the local art community.
The second floor will feature eight, one-bedroom affordable rental units (three loft units and five single-storey units) for low-to-moderate income singles and couples working in the downtown area. The building will blend heritage architectural and artistic features.
Renovations are expected to be complete by this summer.
For more information: Richard Walls at 204-942-2129
Homeless advocate for change
Across Canada, there are many groups of current and former homeless people advocating for affordable housing and liveable incomes. They push buttons, push issues, and push us to pay attention when all we want to do is look away.
Downtown Eastside Residents' Association (DERA) is a community-directed, charitable society formed in 1973 by residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. http://www.dera.bc.ca/overview/overview.htm
Located in one of the “poorest urban neighbourhoods” in the country, DERA has fought to focus the attention of government, industry and the public on the key components of poverty and homelessness. Members work hard for decent, secure, affordable housing, jobs, livable incomes, community and recreational facilities, park space, safer streets, and community-based neighbourhood planning.
DERA was formed as a reaction against the general attitude of indifference and neglect to the area, then known as “Skid Road,” which was a powerful and destructive characterization that promoted a feeling of hopelessness. By renaming their community, “The Downtown Eastside,” DERA gave it a new identity.
According to Kim Kerr, DERA’s Executive Director, their political style has been confrontational, which leaves many people uncomfortable, but the strategy has been very effective at getting attention. If nothing else, it has also empowered residents to take control over their own lives by fighting for their rights.
“We need to get more political and not be afraid to use our voices,” said Kerr. “We need to get back to the days of radical community action. We need to revolt or nothing is going to change. People will continue to die on the streets unless we are prepared to speak up and tell the truth.”
Kerr acknowledges that not everyone, least of all funders, agrees with their approach and they have lost funding as a result. But, regardless of the price, he says, every demonstration, every occupation, every arrest, was worth it.
History has proven that change comes one radical step at a time. There are other groups like DERA across the country.
SHORT is an organization of and for people who live in homeless shelters in Ottawa. Since its founding in 2003, SHORT has provided mutual support and encouragement in dealing with the issues of homelessness, addiction, mental illness and the “desperate grinding poverty that still exists in the richest province of one of the richest countries in the world.”
The group will be presenting at the Canadian Conference on Homelessness in May in Toronto. “Until SHORT, there was no-one to turn to if there was a problem with shelter staff, or even to make sure the various agencies lived up to their legal obligations. Prisoners have better defined rights than someone living in a shelter! SHORT wants to change that.”
(an excerpt from Short’s article on “Shelter Traps.”) http://wwwgeocities.com/shortottawa/sheltertrap.html
Street-involved youth in Toronto are speaking out through a new play. Mixed Company Theatre, in association with Evangel Hall, is presenting the Cobblestone Theatre Troupe, 2005 to present the play Voices. It was scripted by Chalmers award-winning playwright Rex Deverell. For further information contact: Suzanna Cermak at 416-504-3563 x229 email:
Recent housing announcements
On April 29, the Ontario government signed a long-awaited affordable housing agreement, which promises to commit $602 million over the next four years. Federal Housing Minister Joe Fontana told Housing Again that all the details of the framework have yet to be worked out.
“Together with the recent agreement signed in Manitoba and next week’s agreement in New Brunswick,” Fontana said, “this country is truly back in the housing business.”
Although delighted with the news, both Michael Shapcott and Cathy Crowe from the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee said “that until the details are fleshed out it’s too soon to tell” how the announcements will impact housing wait lists.
On April 24, NDP leader Jack Layton got a signed agreement from Prime Minister Paul Martin that allocates $1.6 billion in new money over the next two years for affordable housing. Fontana confirmed for Housing Again that the new cash is “unconditional” and does not require matching provincial funds. But the deal cannot be fulfilled until the federal budget passes.
Earlier in the month, the federal government also announced that an agreement would be signed with the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada, which allows the national federation to complete research and development activities for the start-up of a Co-operative Housing Programs Administration Agency. The new agency will assume control over the portfolio management services for federally administered co-operative housing by early 2006.
In addition, the subsidy formula for co-ops, which currently results in unintended losses of assistance for low-income households when co-ops renew their mortgages, will be fixed.
In addition, CMHC has now waived its mortgage insurance premiums for rental projects geared to affordable housing.
Hidden Homeless Campaign
National Marketing Strategy
The “Hidden Homeless” campaign was created pro bono by Grey Worldwide, an international advertising agency, and supported by Direct Energy and ecentricarts, a Web site development company. Media time was donated for the television ads by Global Television, CBC, and other major networks. Flare, Time, and Toronto Life, as well as a variety of French-language magazines, donated space for the print ads.
“Homeless people may not be who you think they are,” said Raising the Roof Executive Director Jennifer Parnell. “When people learn more about the real face of homelessness a light goes on that leads to a sincere desire to get involved.”
New address for Housing Connections
Housing Connections in Toronto has moved. Due to the move, the office was closed from April 15 until April 29 when the new self-service Resource Centre at 176 Elm Street, west of University Ave was opened.