Province’s condominium act under review

Housing advocates hope changes will address apartments converted into condos

Housing activist Clarke Brownlee is fighting for amendments to the provincial condo act that would ensure more affordable housing for Winnipeggers. Dylan Hewlett

Oct. 29 marked the last day for public comment on the Province of Manitoba’s Condominium Act and housing advocates made sure they had their say.

The current Act lays out the process for turning existing apartment buildings into condominiums and tenants’ tenure rights under this process. 

However, it does not set any limits on the number or rate of these conversions in relation to existing rental housing stock. 

“That issue is different from what we are looking at in the Condo Act,” said Ian Anderson, director of research and planning with the provincial department of family services and consumer affairs. 

Some possible changes to the act include giving condo buyers seven days as opposed to 48 hours to review the details of a condo purchase, as well as requiring that all plans to change existing buildings into condominiums be certified by a structural engineer.

Doug Forbes, president of the Manitoba Chapter of the Canadian Condominium Institute, is uncertain how regulations determining cut-offs for apartment conversions into condos would fit under the current Act.

“I’m not opposed to the concept, but it just hasn’t come up,” Forbes said.

Shauna Mackinnon, director of the Manitoba office of the Centre for Public Policy Alternatives, believes the rate at which apartments are converted into condos should be addressed in this review.

“If Winnipeg did not have a low vacancy rate and there was an adequate supply of rental units, this would not be an issue,” Mackinnon said. “Without replacing the supply of rentals, however, converting existing rental stock into condominiums is irresponsible.”

The City of Winnipeg says they can’t regulate the conversion of apartments to condos without provincial legislation, so this is the ideal time to ask that

Clark Brownlee, director, Right to Housing

Winnipeg’s vacancy rate is one per cent as of April 2010, according to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, while the national average is 2.9 per cent.

Housing advocates like Clark Brownlee agree that condo conversions should be included in the review. He is the coordinator of Right to Housing, a coalition of individuals and 40 organizations that lobby for affordable housing.

“The City of Winnipeg says they can’t regulate the conversion of apartments to condos without provincial legislation, so this is the ideal time to ask that,” said Brownlee.

Brownlee points to regulations in place in cities like Regina and Ottawa. Condo conversions are only approved in Regina if the current vacancy rate is three per cent or higher. In Ottawa, this approval is granted only if the vacancy rate has been three per cent or higher for the past two years.

The Province of Manitoba welcomed comments on all parts of the Act, notes Anderson, and not just those issues listed in the discussion paper posted on the department of family services and consumer affairs website.

“If people have comments on other issues not covered in the discussion paper or the Act, we’d like to hear about those as well,” said Anderson.

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