As many as 50 families with modest incomes will have a chance to experience the benefits of home ownership, thanks to a deal struck between Habitat for Humanity Greater Vancouver and the City of Coquitlam.
The project will more than double the number of homes built to date by Habitat in Metro Vancouver in one fell swoop.
“It’s our biggest development ever in B.C. and the third largest in Canada,” said Habitat operations director Stephani Baker.
Council approved a memorandum this week to lease a city-owned parcel of land on Coast Meridian Road to the Greater Vancouver chapter of Habitat for 80 years, for what will likely be a token payment.
Habitat is already sorting through more than 300 applications for “sweat-equity” ownership stakes that poured in after news spread that the Habitat was a front-runner for the land package, she said.
Three-bedroom, 1,200-square-foot units are intended to house families with children with an income between $35,000 to $65,000.
A Habitat home can be life changing for families of limited means, who might otherwise never be able to save for a down payment.
“The security and space to live a healthy life is very important to us and particularly for my children,” said Gamatchu Taha, who will soon move his family into a Habitat home in Richmond. “Having a safe place they recognize as their own home, where they can play inside and out, will be something that they have never had.”
Successful applicants must complete 500 service hours to qualify to purchase the homes that are typically built with a mix of free and purchased building materials by a blend of volunteers and professional trades labour. Donations from the community typically fund about 40 per cent of construction costs.
Accepted candidates can volunteer to work on other candidates’ homes or at ReStore, Habitat’s used building goods retail chain.
“A lot of our families work in the service industry, trades, young teachers, hospital technicians and retail workers,” said Baker. “Over time their incomes tend to rise and when they decide to enter the housing market, we return their equity to them.”
Because the families’ monthly housing costs are fixed at 30 per cent of their income — as opposed to 50 to 70 per cent for rent on market housing — they are usually able to save a decent nest egg over the time they spend in their Habitat homes to add to that equity, said Baker.
It will take about four years to complete the Coquitlam project. How many homes are ultimately built will depend on the size of the buffer zone created for a stream that runs through the property and the size of the playground to be shared by residents.
Habitat has picked up the pace of construction in Metro Vancouver as the local real estate market has spiralled beyond the means of many families.
A 27-home project in Burnaby was completed in 2013 and a six-home, 12-family project is currently under construction in Richmond. Another 19 units are ready to break ground in Mission.
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