Winnipeg: Bring it on

Western Investor
September 27, 2013

Need proof? The City of Winnipeg has agreed to write a $10,000 cheque to anybody who buys a condominium in the historic Exchange District or along Waterfront Drive as part of its $7.8 million Waterfront Neighbourhood Development Program.

The money essentially amounts to a forgivable loan that would be put toward a down payment, provided the purchasers live in the condo for at least five years and that they do not try to flip the property.

The city's apartment situation is improving, too.


According to the Spring Rental Market Survey by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC), Winnipeg's apartment vacancy rate is expected to rise above 2 per cent next year for the first time in more than a decade.

Dianne Himbeault, CMHC's senior market analyst, says she expects another 800 units will be added to the city's stock in 2013, in line with increases over the past two years.

"The last time we saw this kind of construction was in the late-1980. Now our population is growing and we've seen a resurgence in construction," said Himbeault.

The numbers don't tell the entire story, however. The vacancy rate for well-placed, quality apartments is very close to zero per cent.

"A good-quality, mid-range apartment is very hard to find," she said. "Our average rent is around $940 for a two-bedroom unit."

On top of that, about 300 apartments have converted into condominiums in each of the last three years.

According to Himbeault, "There's an opportunity to renovate the units and recoup the costs by turning them into condos."

The city's core is seeing ongoing development in popular areas such as Osborne Village - voted Canada's best neighbhourhood by the Canadian Institute of Planners last year - Little Italy on Corydon Avenue and nearby Academy Road.

"If you don't have a thriving and diverse economy like we do, those things wouldn't be happening, " James said.

The widespread optimism is shared by the Bank of Montreal, which predicts 12,000 new jobs will be created in Winnipeg over the next three years. That would nudge the city's unemployment rate down to 5 per cent, among the lowest in the country.

BMO estimates the Manitoba economy will grow by 2 per cent in 2013, down from 2.7 per cent last year but still trending ahead of the national rate.

The growth is being driven by the manufacturing sector, which appears to have recovered from the 2008-09 slowdown. New Flyer Industries, one of the leading bus-makers in North America, has overflowing order books, and Boeing Canada is ramping up its aerospace production, BMO said. The average weekly wage is north of $800.

James is quick to note it's not all about the money. People are increasingly attracted to cities where they can have a healthy work-life balance.

"It's very easy to have a good job with a good income and a family in Winnipeg," she said.

from Western Investor September 2013

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