Bobbi, one of the most recent Campbell River Habitat for Humanity homeowners, opens the door to her new home while her youngest daughter looks on in excitement. Photo by Ron Odowichuk

National Housing Day a chance to examine Habitat’s model

By making homeownership a realistic possibility, model is making a difference

The provincial government says it’s never been more important to recognize the issues surrounding housing.

“Homes are where we make family,” Premier John Horgan said Wednesday, which was being recognized as National Housing Day. “They are the foundation of community.”

He also admitted that “too many British Columbians are struggling to find housing they can afford.”

Later that day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his government’s much anticipated National Housing Strategy, in which he committed his government to recognizing housing as a “fundamental right,” implementing a new low-income housing benefit as well as the construction of 100,000 new affordable housing units across the country. The strategy has an attached price tag of $40 billion over 10 years.

Here at home, Habitat for Humanity Vancouver Island North (VIN) says they are doing their best to be part of the solution locally using its own model, recognizing the profound impact that Canada’s affordable housing crisis is having in our community.

According to recently released results from the 2016 census, one in four Canadians spend 30 per cent or more of their income on housing costs. Spending more than 30 per cent, according to some housing advocates, puts people at an increased risk of homelessness. In Campbell River, a lack of decent and affordable housing options has meant that people in the community are struggling to make ends meet, often while living in sub-standard housing.

“At Habitat we work daily to build more homes for local families in need of a safe and affordable place to live. Every home that we sell ensures another home is freed up to the overall housing continuum,” says Pat McKenna, Executive Director for Habitat VIN. “We recently completed the first two of 11 units in Campbell River, and in 2018 we plan to begin phase one of our 10-unit build on Lake Trail Road in Courtenay.”

Based on a partnership between the family, the community, volunteers and the private sector, Habitat for Humanity brings communities together to help build strength, stability and independence through affordable homeownership, McKenna says. Habitat’s model bridges an important gap in the housing continuum. On one side of this continuum is social housing and rental housing, and on the other side is market homeownership. Habitat for Humanity bridges that gap, he says, providing an opportunity for families that would otherwise have no chance at homeownership. Habitat does not give away free homes – Habitat homeowners pay for their homes, through an affordable mortgage that is never more than 30 percent of their income. But by providing families with access to affordable homeownership, McKenna says, Habitat is an important part of the solution to Canada’s housing crisis.

“As we mark another National Housing Day, we are renewing our commitment to this community that we will continue to work toward a world where everyone has a decent place to live,” McKenna says. “Habitat’s model of affordable homeownership helps low-income families purchase a home. But to make this vision a reality, every level of government needs to invest in a variety of housing solutions. It will also require the continued support of the community, corporations and other non-profit organizations to make access to decent and affordable housing a reality not just for some, but for all.”

The province, for its part, says they have been working to make housing more affordable, as well, and will continue to do so, but details about just how they intend to do that will have to wait for the spring budget.

“Fixing the problem won’t be easy,” Horgan says. “Making homes affordable for families will require partnerships at every level of government,” but adds the government’s spring budget “will contain further measures to address housing affordability by increasing supply, addressing demand, and delivering on a comprehensive housing strategy for British Columbia.”

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