10 Feb Housing Crisis in Winnipeg: searching for solutions

By: Alazar Negasi and Marta Kalita – Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council Inc. (MIIC)

Finding safe and affordable housing for government-assisted refugees (GARs) is a key settlement service offered by the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council Inc. (MIIC), a long-standing settlement service provider organization based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. With the help and support of MIIC’s staff and partners, many refugees have made Winnipeg their new home; successfully adjusting to life in Canada and contributing to the social and economic well-being of the Canadian society. However, due to a number of factors including low rent allowance provided to GARs, declining housing stock and an exceptionally low vacancy rates (less than 1%), finding affordable housing has become increasingly challenging for the MIIC housing counsellors.

The MIIC housing counsellors tirelessly work to overcome these challenges and assist clients to find affordable places to live. For instance, they have established cordial relationships with a number of public and subsidised housing agencies, private housing companies and individual landlords. Working with these partners has been critical in securing accommodation for the ever growing number of refugees and immigrants settling in Winnipeg.  

Over the years, MIIC also established a strong relationship with the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM), a transition house providing subsidized family units for a maximum of three years. IRCOM House takes applications from all refugees and immigrants, so spaces are very limited. 

Manitoba Housing, the provincial agency providing subsidized accommodation, also offers rent assistance to low-income individuals and families to help cover non-subsidized housing costs. Under this program, eligible clients can receive up to $270 per month, depending on their rental costs, utility costs and family size. MIIC helps GAR clients to access Manitoba Housing’s Rent Assist.

The lasting housing crisis in the city of Winnipeg preoccupies a number of community stakeholders. Recently, MIIC got involved with practicum students from the University of Winnipeg’s Department of Political Science to contribute to research projects and supervise field research on immigration and housing in Winnipeg. We hope that these initiatives will lead to short-term, practical solutions to the housing crisis experienced in the province of Manitoba.

Refugees and immigrants tend to arrive in Canada with unrealistic housing expectations. This often leads to frustration and additional adaptation challenges. We hope that this information will help the COA team to prepare refugees and immigrants bound to Winnipeg for the housing obstacles they may encounter upon arrival. MIIC believes that affordable and adequate housing is essential to successfully integrate newcomers, and continues to explore new avenues to enhance the initial settlement experience of refugees resettled in Manitoba.