Where Can Winnipeg Grow?

Where Can Winnipeg Grow?

In 2016, Winnipeg was home to 705,244 residents1 and was expected to continue growing by approximately 8,200 people per year2. If these growth patterns play out, Winnipeg will reach a population of one million around 2049. Do we know where these new residents can live?


  • 2016 Population: 705,244
  • Occupied Dwelling Units in Winnipeg: 281,050
  • Single Family: 166,955
  • Average Number of People per Household: 2.5
  • Projected Housing Need for Population of 1 Million (additional 294,756 people): 117,900 Dwelling Units

Sources: 2016 Census; City of Winnipeg 2018 Population Forecast; City of Winnipeg Population, Housing and Economic Forecast 2016

To meet the needs of a growing population, new housing needs to be built throughout the City. OurWinnipegTM, the City’s development plan, outlines a multi-pronged vision to accommodate growth. It identifies the densification of major corridors (such as Portage Avenue and Pembina Highway), downtown, and major redevelopment sites, as opportunity areas to add housing along with new communities on greenfield land as an areas to accommodate growth. However, plans have not been fully developed to determine how growth in these areas could or should occur.

Understanding infrastructure capacity and constraints of Winnipeg’s growth areas is an important consideration when considering where and how our city will grow.  Starting with an understanding of our new communities will help us understand how much of the expected growth can be accommodated in these areas. It also offers insight into the level of growth we will need to accommodate in corridors, downtown, major redevelopment sites and in established neighbourhoods.

To understand the capacities and constraints of Winnipeg’s new communities, Braid Consulting and WSP compiled permit data from the City, approved and proposed development plans with input from the development industry and  the City’s Planning, Property and Development department.

The analysis of the compiled information provides a number of important findings:

Infrastructure constraints reduce land available for development

Source: Braid Solutions and WSP

If all the land we looked at is available to be developed in a way similar to the way land has been developed in the last decade, we can accommodate:

  • Approximately 80,000 units (200,000 people) in new and recent communities
  • 37,900 housing units (to accommodate 94,750 people) would be needed in other areas of the City to support a population of one million people.

However, key infrastructure investments are required to make full use of land identified for new communities in OurWinnipeg. Regional enabling infrastructure includes major transportation, water, sewer and land drainage systems that are beyond the scale of local area servicing. Regional enabling infrastructure plans are not yet in place for large areas of the City of Winnipeg, reducing the land available for development.

74,400 Housing Unit Capacity With New Infrastructure. 19,280 Additional Housing Units Needed

Without new infrastructure:

  • Removing the areas constrained by undeveloped regional enabling infrastructure new and recent communities have capacity for approximately 31,000 units (77,500 people)
  • 86,900 units (217,250 people) would need to be developed in established areas of the City to support a population of one million

26,800 Housing Unit Capacity With Current Infrastructure. 66,880 Additional Housing Units Needed

Regardless of the capacity in new communities, neighbourhood intensification is required in other areas of the City

Depending on of the investment in regional enabling infrastructure, new communities will support between 31,000 and 80,000 new housing units, this leaves 38,000 to 87,000 units that will need to be built within established communities. This raises many questions that we need to consider as we decide where Winnipeg should grow:

  • How many dwellings can the city’s established areas accommodate?
  • What is the capacity of existing infrastructure to support the infill needed for the projected growth?
  • What type of regional infrastructure investments (i.e. upgrades to water and sewer capacity) need to be made to support development in established neighbourhoods? How do these investments compare to the investments needed for new communities?
  • What new and additional development will existing residents accept in established neighbourhoods?
  • Will this amount of growth in established neighbourhoods change their character? Is this a good thing?
  • What are the positives that new development in established neighbourhoods bring to those areas?
  • What types of housing will new residents want to buy and choose to live in?
  • Where do the residents of Winnipeg want to live?
  • What is important to the quality of life that we expect and enjoy in Winnipeg? Should new residents have the same opportunities?

A plan is required in order to make investments in infrastructure, in both infill and greenfield

In order to accommodate growth in a way that is in line with the vision and guidelines of OurWinnipeg, we need to create a balanced growth plan for the entire city so we can be ready to meet even the most conservative estimates for Winnipeg’s projected growth. A balanced approach to growth will help to ensure there is variety of housing styles to meet the market and give people the housing opportunities that they want, where they want them. At the same time, a balanced growth plan ensures our communities are not competing against one another, and that other parts of the city still work and that we do not create conflicts among uses.

Plans need to be made in a way that makes the best use of the infrastructure that is already in place and that will make the best use of our future investments. They need to reflect the culture and context of our city, developed collaboratively, and through the three lenses of sustainability.

Planning for detailed infrastructure and longer term financing are needed to better understand and prepare for infrastructure investments that will properly address this issue, while also answering many of the related questions. This type of infrastructure planning takes a long time and must be done in advance of individual projects planning, funding, design and construction – often up to 7 years or more – so we need to start now.