With Winnipeg’s population expected to grow to one million by 2040, understanding how we will need to collectively plan for growth in a way that enables Winnipeggers to live, work and play in a prosperous and sustainable city is key to meeting our future needs as a community.
Implementing an effective plan for our city’s future growth will be a very important task for our next city council.
Current council members and the many new candidates who have stepped forward to run are attending community events and door-knocking in neighbourhoods across Winnipeg in advance of this fall’s civic election.
Their discussions will range from local ward issues to larger issues facing our entire city.
One key issue facing the entire city is how will we, as a community, plan for this anticipated growth? To help with that discussion, the Manitoba Home Builders’ Association has put together a few "myth busters" around new developments and why building a new home is an attractive proposition for many homeowners:
Invest in your community and your family’s future: Building a new home is the single largest investment most Manitoba families make. Home values continue to increase in Winnipeg, which has helped ensure a healthy return on the investment made when someone builds a new home.
In 2017, more than $3.2 billion of residential construction activity took place in Winnipeg. Housing construction was responsible for over 30,900 jobs in Winnipeg, earning more than $1.8 billion in wages.
These are major investments with a major impact on our city’s entire economy.
Growth more than pays for growth: All of the infrastructure that goes into new developments is paid for by the developer, not by the City of Winnipeg.
Every road, every pipe and drain, the sewer and water lines, the green spaces and trees, right down to the fire hydrants are outlined and approved by the city in each development agreement they have with the developer of a new project.
Property taxes are among the highest on the new homes built in these communities, while service levels (such as community clubs, transit, etc.) are the lowest.
So, new developments not only pay for their own infrastructure needs, they provide a significant amount of revenue that helps renew older infrastructure in other parts of the city.
Let us not forget that major investments by all three levels of government to help build major trade corridors, such as the Route 90 extension to facilitate trade both west and south of Winnipeg, were primarily done for economic development and not for residential development.
New developments = new density: It may surprise you that many of the areas in Winnipeg with the greatest population density are the newest communities and developments.
Multi-family developments, town houses, condos and apartments are common and prominent features in Winnipeg’s fastest growing neighbourhoods.
Winnipeg’s density growth is happening in newer communities, not in our established neighbourhoods.
The NIMBY (not in my backyard) mentality, the lack of certainty around which densification projects will be allowed and the lack of sufficient infrastructure in existing neighbourhoods all deter greater density in older parts of Winnipeg.
Old infrastructure can’t necessarily handle greater density: While it would be great to build greater density in many of Winnipeg’s older neighbourhoods, it can be challenging, as older infrastructure may not have the capacity to service new apartments or condos.
Sewer and water pipes in some cases are 50 to 60 years old and were built to serve a neighbourhood of single-family homes. The sewer and water infrastructure capacity in an area may not be adequate to add an apartment block that replaces two or three single-family homes or to retrofit a warehouse into high-end condos.
And keep in mind that the cost of replacing antiquated and insufficient infrastructure in order to facilitate new infill developments is born by the developer, not the City of Winnipeg.
Lifestyle choices: Simply put, not everyone in Winnipeg works downtown and not everyone wants to live downtown.
While the "all roads lead to downtown" mentality is fairly prevalent in the current discourse, many of us don’t work downtown. Our offices, businesses, schools and workplaces are in other parts of the city.
For many Winnipeggers, having a discussion about "living closer to work" does not involve planning a daily trip to Portage and Main.
Thirty minutes from anywhere: Even with our recent growth, Winnipeg remains a relatively easy city to commute downtown in when we compare ourselves to cities such as Edmonton and Ottawa.
Certainly, compared to Toronto or Vancouver, Winnipeg is easy to move around in.
We agree that as we grow, a solid plan to maintain this advantage is a vitally important.
Space makes Winnipeg attractive: Winnipeg has seen a tremendous increase in immigration since 2011. Many new Canadians have chosen Winnipeg as the place to make their family’s new home and have driven much of the growth in many of Winnipeg’s newer developments, such as Amber Trails, Sage Creek and Bridgwater.
This is not because of a lack of options, but rather because the lifestyle these communities provide is very attractive to those families who are looking to establish Winnipeg as their new home.
Greater energy efficiency: Homes built today in Winnipeg are much more energy-efficient than those built even just 10 to 15 years ago.
New building code standards, technology and materials continue to increase the energy efficiency of new homes as they are built.
Even with the growth we have experienced, Winnipeg continues to have one of the oldest housing stocks in Canada, and the annual cost of heating older homes in Winnipeg’s established neighbourhoods can be more than double that of a new home.
The upcoming introduction of a carbon tax in Manitoba and rising energy rates only makes the energy savings a new home offers even more attractive.
Live in a healthier home: If you live in an older home, do you know what’s in your walls?
Today’s homes are built to standards that ensure a cleaner, healthier environment. More efficient buildings and better building standards mean better airflow, better quality and better safety for your family.
Winnipeg needs an inclusive and fact-based plan for growth. Our city needs an approach to growth that drives both economic and residential growth in a sustainable way and that is followed and implemented by our civic government to encourage confidence and investment.
The discussion on how to grow our city should not be reduced to a "downtown" versus "the rest" debate.
The residential construction sector has been advocating for this approach and will continue to do.
We encourage you to ask your local candidates about this when they knock on your door this summer.
Lanny McInnes is president of the Manitoba Home Builders’ Association.