Neighbourhoods are alive with ideas

By: Rob Altemeyer, MLA for Wolseley

As published in The Metro

May 21, 2013

Have you ever had a really neat idea for your neighbourhood? Something that could bring people together or improve their lives in a meaningful way? Welcome to the wonderful world of the provincial government’s Neighbourhoods Alive! program.

Launched in December of 1999, Neighbourhoods Alive! is a long-term community renewal program that provides significant funding to targeted areas, and works with local people to make their solutions a reality.

Rather than government making all the decisions centrally, this program provides core funding for small Neighbourhood Renewal Corporations.

The staff at these organizations typically live in or close to the neighbourhoods they work in, and their local expertise is put to good use as they head out to collect ideas and solutions from the community.

The feedback is organized into a five-year plan, with each community focusing on the priorities that make the most sense to them. Annual funding from the province of around $5 million is available to turn those ideas into concrete results on the ground.

Neighbourhoods Alive! was founded by my predecessor, Jean Friesen, who served as the MLA for Wolseley and deputy premier until her retirement in 2003.

"Sometimes we forget that in the 1990s Winnipeg was known as the ‘Arson Capital’ of Canada from autobin and other fires," she said. "We also had close to 1,000 boarded-up houses in the city and entire neighbourhoods where residents saw no hope of change. Neighbourhoods Alive! helps communities make the improvements that matter most to them."

Fast forward to today and hundreds of local projects and programs across Manitoba have already been implemented. The $43 million investment made by Neighbourhoods Alive! so far has been so successful that other jurisdictions have copied it, and we’ve expanded it twice to include more Manitoba communities. In the Wolseley constituency, no less than three different neighbourhoods — St. Matthew’s, Spence, and West Broadway, where I live, are now covered by the program.

"We’ve been through a lot in the past 12 years", says Jamil Mahmood, Executive Director for the Spence Neighbourhood Association. "In that time we’ve built 33 infill houses for low-income families, provided over $1 million in home renovation grants on top of that, and established nine community gardens."

"We’ve also found odd jobs for thousands of community members through our Skills Bank program, and over 100 kids come here every night for safe after-school programming. Everything we do has been directed by the community and it will continue to work that way", says Mahmood.

Who knows — maybe you will add an important chapter to this great story of community renewal. Check out http://www.gov.mb.ca/housing/neighbourhoods for details. After all, there’s no such thing as too many good ideas.