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Affordable housing projects to see $104M in funding

The federal and Manitoba governments will pour $104 million into affordable housing projects across the province over the next five years.

The deal was signed by Manitoba Conservative MP Candice Bergen, minister responsible for social development, and Manitoba Housing and Community Development Minister Peter Bjornson on Tuesday.

The agreement, an extension of an existing program that ran out in April, is being cost-shared equally. The previous agreement was similarly funded and stretched over three years.

Bjornson said the money will be spread across the province to fund everything from seniors housing and homes for the homeless to repairing rooming houses and supplementing rents.

"It's good news for Manitobans," he said Tuesday at a signing ceremony at the Manitoba Legislative Building.

Bergen called the program a "smart investment" that will do more than put a roof over someone's head.

"This is more than just about housing. It's about giving individuals and families the security to know that they have a safe, stable place to live," the Portage-Lisgar MP said.

From there, participants can improve their education and obtain a better job, she said. "Housing is the first step in that; housing is the first piece."

Bergen noted that Ottawa doesn't dictate to provinces how affordable housing dollars are to be spent.

"In order for our investments to make a lasting difference, I believe, and our federal government believes, that they need to reflect local priorities, local needs, local issues," she said.

Bjornson said the funds will also boost economic growth and job creation and provide apprenticeship opportunities in Manitoba.

Dennis Lewycky, executive director of the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, welcomed the renewal of the Investment in Affordable Housing (IAH) agreement. But he said he wished social agencies such as his were allowed to play a more central role in planning and implementing projects.

"We regret that government doesn't have as much confidence in the social service sector as we think (it should)," Lewycky said.

The province communicates well with social agencies, he said, but government funds could be "maximized" if the groups were involved as partners in projects along with the private sector.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

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