Neighbourhoods Alive! and Neighbourhood Renewal Corporations: The Evolution of the Partnership for Revitalization Part 2

October 28, 2015

In August of 2000, there was not yet a plan for Neighbourhoods Alive! (NA!) to partner with Neighbourhood Renewal Corporations (NRC). It had been determined that NA! would employ a Community Led Development (CLD) model. Although the CLD model was central to the NA! approach, it had not been well-defined or determined as to how it would be applied.

West Broadway Community Organization North End Community Renewal Corporation
Brandon Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation Spence Neighbourhood Association

The initial thought was to consider identifying “umbrella organizations” in each NA! community to assist with local renewal efforts in a volunteer advisory capacity. There had been approaches to some local organizations such as community centres, but most of these organizations had their hands full with their own specific mandates and were reluctant to get involved in a broader voluntary role.

At that time, there were two pre-existing NRCs: West Broadway Development Corporation (WBDC) and the North End Community Renewal Corporation (NECRC), as well as two emerging NRCs: Brandon Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation (BNRC) and Spence Neighbourhood Association (SNA). These organizations were willing to play a role in partnering with NA!, but not without some agreement that included compensation for services. There was initially some reluctance to have the limited NA! resources spent on what could be considered an additional administrative role, but the NRCs were able to effectively lobby and there was support within government.

Neighbourhood Development Assistance 

By December of 2000, the Department of Intergovernmental Affairs (the lead department for NA!) was instructed to develop a program to contract with NRCs and possibly other organizations in each NA! community. The Neighbourhood Development Organizations (NDO) program with the Province of Saskatchewan was identified as an existing model. At that time, there were four NDOs, including the Quint Development Corporation (serving five neighbourhoods) in Saskatoon, each receiving annual funding of $150,000. The NDO program promoted community economic development in NDO communities.

In early 2001, the Neighbourhood Development Assistance (NDA) program was developed, based on the Saskatchewan NDO program. As opposed to the NDO program, however, NDA included some provision for differing funding levels based on $75,000 per year for single community/ neighbourhood NRCs such as BNRC and SNA, and $200,000 for the multi-neighbourhood NECRC (serving three NA! neighbourhoods in 2001). In April 2001, the first five-year NDA agreements were signed with the original four NRCs.  Initially, there was a volunteer-based committee in Thompson, the Thompson NRC was established and added to the NDA agreements in September 2001. Thompson Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation

In exchange for the five-year NDA agreements, NRCs were asked to develop five-year Neighbourhood Renewal Plans (NRP). While Intergovernmental Affairs employed professional City Planners, the NRCs did not. A City Planning student, employed with NA!, helped develop the first guidelines for NRPs. While there was initially some reluctance on the part of NRCs, the first rudimentary NRPs were developed to help guide local renewal efforts. In the process of developing the first plans, NRCs consulted their respective communities.

NDA was initially simply meant to cover basic NRC core operating costs. In 2001, it was felt that $75,000 per year would be sufficient to cover the NRC manager’s salary and office space. NECRC could consider employing other staff members, in addition to a manager. NRCs were encouraged to explore other funding opportunities including applying to Revenue Canada to become registered charities. NECRC, WBDC, and SNA did eventually become registered charities. Brandon NRC was able to negotiate an agreement with the City of Brandon that included rent-free office space and assistance with administrative costs.

NRCs were growing both in terms of their role in their respective communities and resources needed to be effective in that role. All of the NRCs identified housing renewal as critical to their role, including some employing Housing Coordinators. Where there might be a cost-sharing arrangement with local municipalities or other funders the NA! Neighbourhood Renewal Fund (NRF) was also used to facilitate agreements to fund these projects on a time-limited basis.

Tamarack: An Institute for Community EngagementOrganizational Sustainability Planning 

In 2003, NA! contracted Tamarack to facilitate a workshop on Organizational Sustainability Planning. It assisted both NA! and the NRCs to get a better sense of how community development corporations (CDC) across Canada have managed to sustain themselves. In many cases, CDCs receive part of their funding from one or more levels of government. Other sources of income include charitable foundation grants, donations including in-kind, and own source revenue including service fees.

Currently, three Winnipeg NRCs are registered charities and receive part of their funding from charitable foundations and/or through donations. Other NRCs are also in the process of applying to Revenue Canada to become a registered charity, but the process appears to have become more difficult. Brandon NRC, not a registered charity, has managed to become sustainable with funding and other support from all three levels of government.

Several NRCs own property that may be leased to other community-based organizations and/ or public agencies. Some NRCs have launched social enterprises that generate revenue, although not always covering actual costs. In some cases, NDA is now a minority of NRC revenue. The NRCs that have been in existence for the past 15 years tend to have a more diversified revenue base, while NRCs that have more recently been established continue to seek greater sustainability.

NA! Small Grants Fund

In 2003, SNA proposed its Building with Blocks project to be funded under NRF. It proposed establishing a local fund administered by SNA to fund smaller projects with local school parent councils and other groups that would have difficulty applying to NA! or other funders. There was concern within NA! that this project delegated some funding authority directly to a NRC. It was a popular concept with other NRCs and the NA! Small Grant Fund (SGF) was eventually established with all NRCs. 

One unforeseen difficultly with SGF was that Revenue Canada had a concern about NRCs that were registered charities taking on what it viewed as a non-charitable role. A solution for NECRC was to establish a separate organization, North End Revitalization Inc., to administer SGF and other non-charitable roles. SGF has allowed for more local decision-making on NA! funding, but perhaps placed NRCs in the position of being viewed as agents of government.

In addition to SGF, the previous Department of Family Services and Housing also established a small grant program for exterior renovations to eligible homeowners and landlords through its Neighbourhood Housing Assistance program. Homeowners and landlords can apply for $1,000 – $2,000 grants and must at least match that contribution. The City of Winnipeg also has a similar fund through its Housing Improvement Zones program.

NA! Expansions and NRCs

In 2005, NA! expanded to serve seven additional Major Improvement Areas (MIA). neighbourhoods in Winnipeg (twelve MIA neighbourhoods in total). In the case of NECRC, already serving two of these expansion neighbourhoods, NDA funding was simply increased proportionately to NECRC. In the case of the other five expansion neighbourhoods, the NDA program allowed for the expansion of existing NRCs to serve these neighbourhoods or the establishment of new multi-neighbourhood NRCs. NRF funding was also increased somewhat.

By 2006, NDA funding levels had also been increased to recognize the growing role of NRCs. The 2005 Neighbourhoods Alive! Community Outcomes Evaluation had identified that, while the role of the NRCs had evolved, NDA funding was no longer sufficient. For the single community/ Neighbourhood NRCs such as BNRC and WBDC, NDA funding increased from $75,000 to $150,000 per year, although NRCs would no longer be able to apply to NRF for funding for roles such as Housing Coordination.

Central Neighbourhoods Development CorporationAt that time, neither WBDC nor SNA expressed interest in expanding to serve the new NA! neighbourhoods. NDA allowed for expansion neighbourhoods to receive up to $75,000 per neighbourhood per year, considering that multi-neighbourhood NRCs would have some economy of scale. The Central Neighbourhoods Development Corporation (CNDC), serving three NA! neighbourhoods, and the Daniel McIntyre/St. Matthews Community Association (DMSMCA) were eventually established. NECRC would receive $350,000, CNDC – $225,000, and DMSMCA – $150,000 per year in NDA funding.

The differing funding levels would be a source of contention for some of the multi-neighbourhood NRCs such as CNDC. In the North End of Winnipeg, NA! has also allowed for NRF funding for coordination of resident associations in those neighbourhoods. While CNDC Daniel McIntyre/St. Matthews Community Associationand DMSMCA have also benefitted from some ongoing NRF funding for some of their projects, other NERCs have also continued to make demands on NRF funding for their projects.

In 2008, NA! again expanded to serve five new communities outside of Winnipeg. As these communities were generally smaller in population or considered to have lower needs than Brandon and Thompson, NDA funding for these communities was set at $75,000 per year. As these communities were situated many kilometers apart, multi-community NRCs were not viewed as an option in those communities. Eventually, NRCs were established in all five of these NA! expansion communities. NRF was also again increased somewhat to accommodate this expansion.

Chalmers Neighbourhood Renewal CorporationIn 2011, NA! expanded to serve the Winnipeg neighbourhood of Chalmers. While not a MAI neighbourhood, it was considered to have comparable needs and a larger population than most NA! neighbourhoods. Again, there was not interest in expanding existing NRCs to serve this neighbourhood. The Chalmers Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation (CNRC) was established with NDA funding of $150,000 per year, although with less NRF funding available to that neighbourhood than for other neighbourhoods. The decision to provide NDA funding at this level to CNRC, despite lesser access to NRF funding, would be a source of contention for NRCs such as CNDC.

NDA currently funds 13 NRCs at an annual cost of about $1.8 Million. NRF has also increased from the original $2 Million to almost $3 Million per year. NHA has remained at approximately $1 Million, but now serving more communities. At this point in time, NA! has not identified any further expansion plans. After 15 years in operation, some of the challenges for both NA! and the NRCs will be assessing the impact, determining levels of community capacity, and sustaining ongoing revitalization efforts.

For more information on NA!, check out the resources below:

Richard Dilay

Richard Dilay is currently a self-employed Organizational Consultant. For 11.5 years, between 2000 and 2014, he was the Manager of Neighbourhoods Alive! (on secondment to the department of Family Services between 2010 and 2012). Previously, he worked as a Community Organizer, Child Welfare Worker, and Immigrant Counsellor in Winnipeg. He has a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Manitoba.