Province announces construction underway on affordable housing project in North Point Douglas

The Manitoba government will establish a new $10-million loan fund to support social enterprise, creating more employment and training opportunities for people who face barriers to work, Housing and Community Development Minister Mohinder Saran announced today at the sod-turning of a new 19-unit multi-family housing project that will be built, in part, through social enterprise.

“Manitoba is proud to invest in unique solutions to address difficult challenges like poverty, unemployment and social exclusion,” said Minister Saran. “This new loan fund will provide social enterprises with the financing tools needed to succeed. As a result, more Manitobans will have the opportunity to learn new skills, access social supports, participate in training and find meaningful employment.”

The new $10-million social enterprise loan fund will help employment-focused social enterprises access capital with flexible loan financing including start-up, operating or emergency loans and loan guarantees. Social enterprises are non-profit organizations that use a business model to achieve broader social goals, an approach the minister noted can effectively provide a path out of poverty for people who face barriers to employment.

The loan fund builds on the recommendations of the 2015 Manitoba Social Enterprise Strategy and will be developed in partnership with the social enterprise sector, the minister noted.

“Access to the right money at the right time, as well as exploring and developing markets, including public procurement, are important pieces of the Manitoba Social Enterprise Strategy,” said Sarah Leeson-Klym, regional director, Canadian Community Economic Development Network. “As the community hosts of this strategy, we’re pleased the province is finding ways to support the impact of training and employment-focused social enterprises while also moving forward on their commitments to create affordable housing.”

The minister highlighted this new commitment at the sod-turning of Austin Family Commons, a new affordable housing project that will replace three vacant lots at 150 Austin St. North.

“The Austin Family Commons project will make a real difference for families in the North Point Douglas neighbourhood,” said Minister Saran. “We are excited to partner with community agencies, our builders and social enterprise to ensure the construction of these new units will create job opportunities for people who have experienced employment barriers. This is a win-win for the entire community.”

Once complete, Austin Family Commons will be a three-story, 19-unit family apartment building. Rents will be set at affordable levels and half the units will offer rents geared to income. The minister noted the site provides easy access to a range of local amenities and major public transportation routes on Main Street, making it ideal for local workers and future tenants.

“Nothing takes a bigger bite out of poverty and all its symptoms than a job,” ‎said Lucas Stewart, general manager, Manitoba Green Retrofit (MGR).‎ “Social enterprises like MGR use entrepreneurial tools to create meaningful and, most importantly, sustainable jobs for Manitobans who might otherwise be unemployed. Financing from this loan fund will provide social enterprises with tools to play a much bigger role in many future projects like this one.‎ This is good policy and smart spending.‎”

Minister Saran noted this project supports Manitoba’s commitment to developing new affordable rental housing for families. Construction is expected to be completed in early 2017, he added.

The minister also announced the Manitoba government will develop a government-wide social impact procurement policy to broaden public-sector support for social enterprise and help ensure that existing purchasing leads to more job opportunities for people otherwise excluded from the labour market.

For more information about the Manitoba Social Enterprise Strategy and affordable housing in Manitoba, visit www.gov.mb.ca/housing.