story by Janice Henshaw | photos by Janis Jean Photography –
“This has been by far the most impactful project I and my team have had the privilege to be involved with, said Yolanda Meijer, CEO Habitat Victoria. “To work with these families as they created their own community filled with possibilities for the future has been truly inspiring.” They are more than just 10 houses: “Every Habitat home changes the lives of our donors, our volunteers and our future homeowners,” says Habitat for Humanity.
Six delighted families moved into their new homes after a ribbon-cutting and key-giving ceremony on April 21. Young children danced with excitement as they checked out their new bedrooms and explored the shared outdoor play area that will soon include a basketball court and gazebo. They used coloured chalk to draw pictures on the flagstones and blew soap bubbles that floated in the sunshine. Their parents looked on with pride and perhaps a touch of disbelief that their much-anticipated move-in date was no longer a dream. I had tears in my eyes at seeing such joy.
Christina, John and their two children (at right) have moved into a three-bedroom, 1,200-square-foot home in the Bakerview development. Before that they lived in a rented 650-square-foot basement suite. Christina said that they had looked for a larger space with more bedrooms but found “the rent was outrageous, between $2,000 to $2,500 a month.” About a year ago, they attended an information session in Sidney about the Habitat Home Program and learned that the charity was searching for local families in need of decent housing. Christina said: “Until that meeting, we had never considered that homeownership could be an option for us.”
As all renters do, Christina and John had faced the fear of being evicted if their rental accommodation was sold. If they couldn’t find another place, they would be forced to leave the community in which they had spent the last 18 years. “We have so many good friends here that the thought of leaving was just devastating,” said Christina. “We were lucky enough to have had a landlord that cared about us. He didn’t sell the house until after we had given notice – out of the kindness of his heart, he was keeping us housed.” John, who has worked in construction for 24 years, added: “I can’t imagine wanting to live anywhere else but here.”
The family was delighted and truly humbled to be accepted into the Habitat program. “We were so grateful, and shocked; it was like winning the lottery, “said Christine. “Everyone has been so kind; it’s been wonderful. You can tell that the people who work for Habitat are really invested in what they do, and it shows; it’s not just a job for them. They want everyone to be successful. It’s too bad that there are not more organizations like this because, for us, it’s been
John and Christina feel settled now and in a better position to save for the future. “It’s so good to be paying into something that is ours; it gives us hope,” says John. The whole family is excited about the community that is being created. They had met many of their future neighbours while volunteering at the job site and at Habitat ReStore. Their son is delighted to have his own bedroom but says the best part of the move is playing with his new friends. He has been home-schooled since spring break due to family concern about Covid and said: “I am starving for social activities!” He has already applied to become the paperboy.
Built on land donated by the Berglund family, the Habitat homes also received support from CMHC, BC Housing, the District of North Saanich, generous donors and the local community. All the houses are certified to “Built Green” standards. They are attractively painted and finished on the outside with low maintenance HardiePlank siding. Each home has new Whirlpool appliances, vinyl plank flooring, electric baseboard heating, and generous storage inside and outside. Two of the 10 units are barrier-free; they have elevators, wider doorways; and more accessible fixtures, kitchen appliances, cabinets, and light switches.
One of the best features of this remarkable development is its proximity to the ocean and Sidney’s waterfront walkway. Beach playtime, picnics by the sea, walks – it’s all there right across Lochside Road. The beautiful Tulista and Iroquois parks are a short scooter or bike ride away.
The Habitat homes are sold at fair market value to qualified families. They must have an annual gross income that matches the size of their purchased home: $40,000 to $59,500 for two-bedrooms; $45,000 to $78,500 for three-bedrooms, and $50,000 to $84,500 for four bedrooms. Monthly mortgage payments are set at 25% to 30% of the family’s gross income. If a family does not have sufficient resources, a down payment can be waived. The family must be approved by a conventional lender for an interest-bearing first mortgage for some of the home’s value. To ensure affordability, Habitat offers the remainder of the mortgage at 0% interest. They will also purchase the home if the family decides to move. Each homeowner family must contribute 500 volunteer hours to the charity.
How did all this happen? It came about because of a shared vision, corporate generosity, years of planning by Habitat for Humanity Victoria, kind donors, and immeasurable hours of volunteer dedication. Incredible things happen when people come together to work on a shared goal, and it brings out the best in everyone. Kelly King, Director, Communications and Giving, adds with feeling: “We really, really hope it’s going to work out well for everyone living here.”
If you too care about healthy families, how about donating to the next building project of Habitat for Humanity or go shopping at their “ReStore” which sells new or gently used home improvement items. Or if your imagination creates another idea (big or small) on how you can contribute to a stronger and healthier community, why not begin it now? “Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it” (Goethe). It just might be one of the best experiences of your whole life.