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DNRC loses access to popular grant program

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A popular home improvement grant program has come to an end for Dauphin Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation (DNRC).
“We’re sad to see the program go, it’s sure been good,” said DNRC executive director Mary Myhre.
The local office learned a couple of weeks ago the Community Housing Improvement Initiative (CHII) was discontinued indefinitely.
Myhre explained the initiative was made possible through funding received from Manitoba Housing, which is not a branch of government DNRC is typically funded under.
“It was sort of an extra thing that we got to run,” she added.
DNRC received funding of $25,500 each year for CHII, Myhre said, in 2013, 2015 and in 2016.
“And with that, we would turn around and give that out as grants to homeowners,” she said, adding the maximum funding available to a homeowner was $2,500.
The criteria to be eligible for the grant, Myhre explained, was the applicant’s annual household income had to be less than $60,000, the property worth less than $200,000 and the work planned for the exterior of the home.
Completed projects in Dauphin ranged from roofing, to siding, window or door replacements to sidewalk or step repairs.
“So it was a really popular program with great uptake,” she said, estimating in the first year, DNRC had about 80 applications.
Over the three years, Myhre said, DNRC was able to fund 47 projects, affecting approximately 200 individuals in the community.
“So that’s a lot of people and a lot of upgrades that got done with a fairly small investment from the government,” she added.
Myhre pointed out the Manitoba government offers other housing repair programs, but the fact CHII was administered locally, made it unique.
“That gave us a chance to seek out local partners. And so in all of our years, we partnered quite closely with McMunn and Yates and the Dauphin Co-op Building Supply Centre,” she said, noting both businesses offered a discount to pass on to participants, making the funding go that much further.
In 2016, Myhre calculated, the government contribution of $25,500 leveraged an additional $11,590, both through homeowner contributions and discounts offered by local building supply stores.
Administering it locally, she said, also meant it was easier to visually inspect the proposed project and for applicants to visit the DNRC office for support.
In being local, Myhre pointed out, one building supply company was able to open spending accounts for some of the participants, which alleviated pressure for homeowners to spend $1,000, before receiving grant monies.
“Some people just don’t have that $1,000 to spend, which is the reason they’re applying. And so that was a really nice thing that they were able to partner with us, as well,” she noted.
An added bonus DNRC has seen with the program, Myhre said, is it spawned other home improvement projects within the neighbourhood.
“We’ll have a participant who gets money and paints their house for maybe, a couple hundred bucks,” she explained.
“And shortly, one neighbour or two neighbours are starting to do a little project on the outside of their house and it really has a ripple effect down the block, in the neighbourhood and soon, in the whole community.”
While disappointed the program was discontinued, Myhre said, DNRC core funding is in place until March 2018.
DNRC will continue to work in the community on a wide range of programs, Myhre said, adding she hopes to find another way to focus on housing improvement projects.

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M. A. Nyquist
REPORTER
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