2022-06-29 22:06:48 By : Mr. JD Zhao

Mayoral candidate Scott Gillingham has pledged to get more people off the streets of Winnipeg by accelerating the construction of modular homes if elected this fall.

Gillingham says he wants to copy modular rapid housing programs seen in cities such as Toronto, Vancouver and Surrey, B.C. To do this, he would secure council pre-approval for six modular housing sites on city land that would be sufficient to provide 270 units.

The goal would be to get the sites approved by the end of 2023.

Gillingham said he doesn’t have the exact inventory of city-owned vacant lands, adding there are a variety of properties.

“Some are being used right now, for example, as surface parking lots. And then some are available, like the lots that we’re looking at here,” he said gesturing to the vacant lot at 412 Alexander St., which is currently up for sale.

The size of the modular housing would vary depending on the lot. Gillingham said they are typically around 350 square feet and cost about $300 per square foot with the heaviest costs coming in the mechanical and electrical side.

“These units are self-contained homes, and they’re safe and secure, and they’re successful,” he said.

To fund this project, Gillingham said the city would access federal money as Ottawa has set aside $1.5 billion in rapid housing initiatives in its third phase. Winnipeg has already accessed some of these funds in the past, but Gillingham wants to speed the process up. Non-profit and Indigenous groups are currently building 136 units with a similar model.

Gillingham said the city would waive permit costs, property tax and land costs while pre-approving zoning for modular construction on the six designated sites. The city would also engage with the province to help provide wraparound support. Ownership and operation of each of the completed sites would be transferred to non-profits and Indigenous housing organizations through an RFP process.

“We just have too many people in Winnipeg right now that are unsheltered and living on the street,” Gillingham said.

“They’re living in bus shelters they’re living in encampments. And they need housing, and they need the wraparound services to help them transition. This is an immediate response in a way that we can make sites available so that people ultimately can get from the street or an encampment into housing with the supports they need.”

On June 1, Gillingham committed to expanding a city program offering 24/7 safe spaces to provide temporary shelter assistance.

Gillingham is one of 11 candidates registered in Winnipeg’s wide-open mayoral race. Winnipeggers head to the polls on Oct. 26.

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