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Monday, 1 September 2008

Public Housing Continued: Flora Place

I've blogged a bit about public housing recently and this weekend I wanted to go back to see how Flora Place is doing.

Flora Place is a new Winnipeg Regional Housing development in the Dufferin / Selkirk Avenue area. It is built to replace the original Flora Place which was a cluster of 100 homes built in 1947 as temporary shelter to handle the influx of returning troops. Over the decades the homes had fallen into disrepair, 72 of them were torn down in 1999/00. A solution would be needed for the remaining 26 units and their residents.

Flora Place Old Housing
Original Flora Place housing from Manitoba Professional Planners Institute newsletter

In 2004, the three levels of government began talking about a new Flora Place. A $4.4m redevelopment agreement was announced in 2006.

The new Flora Place consists of 28 units (16 one bedroom, 8 two bedroom and 4 three bedroom). They are single storey, built in clusters with front porches and are fully accessible. Four of the units are barrier-free, 16 are rent-geared-to-income and the remainder offer below median market rents.

Flora Place Map

In 2006 the remaining units were demolished, residents relocated to new premises and by August 2007 the first wave of residents were returning to their new homes. These photos were taken in July 2007:

Flora Place 1 - July 2007

Flora Place 1 - July 2007

On my return one year later I found myself in an interesting neighbourhood. The first thing I noticed was that a couple of people waved to me as I walked around - something that I don't think would happen in most WRHA housing developments ! The houses on the interior of the site all faced each other and most had at least a couple of chairs out on the front porch area so it looked like they were being used.

Flora Place August 2008

One resident, who had been a resident in the old Flora Place, invited me inside for a tour.

The units were small - she had a one bedroom that was 600 sq ft. She said her main complaint was that the old homes were mostly two bedrooms and this was not allowed for single people in the new development. I found out later that the old units had 400 sq ft of main living area so it appears that they have lost a bedroom but gained 200 sq ft. The main living area was open concept, coming in the front door you could see straight through to the open kitchen at the back of the dwelling. The bedroom was moderately sized with a small closet. The bathroom was almost the size of the bedroom (to be wheelchair accessible) but had no linen closet. There was a small en suite storage area.

Flora Place August 2008

Considering how small they look from the outside it felt bigger than I thought it would be. You'd not want to have a lot of "poofy" furniture, though, or you'd eat up floorspace in a hurry !

I asked about crime. She said that the neighbours, new and old, are nice enough and there have not been many problems. The issue is with people in the surrounding neighbourhood. She faces outside the development so noise and minor vandalism have been an issue.

Flora Place August 2008

The lady didn't seem to be a big "rules person" and sometimes felt the place was over managed. She felt freer in the old development to do things create a garden, the sizes of which are apparently regulated here.

Flora Place

I'm interested in keeping tabs on Flora Place and see how it does. Despite it looking a bit like a doll-house version of Linden Woods it certainly has some advantages over any other type of public housing that is offered in the city.

I note, too, that this is called Flora Place 1 and there is a great deal of land to the west of it, presumably serviced land as it's the old site of some of the original houses. I imagine that other people are watching Flora Place as well to see if it might be expanded in future as our old style of public housing becomes more and more dysfunctional.

A very good overview of the project can be found on the Manitoba Professional Planners Institutes site (pdf).

UPDATE: November 2008. Flora Place won a national CMHC Housing Award for "Best Practices in Affordable Housing". A pdf backgronder on the development and award can be found here.

Congrats ! I think it's a neat model, not just for public housing but housing renewal in general. Not a brand new house in the burbs but also not a small apartment - something in the middle favouring people (ie seniors, people on small incomes) who can't afford the one yet want more than the other.

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