“This keeps us swinging hammers for the next three years,” says an excited Pat McKenna, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Vancouver Island North, after council’s decision Monday night to approve the development permit for the rest of the homes they intend to build at 477 Hilchey Road.
The latest permit was for the remaining nine units of housing on the property. Two families moved into the first duplex in October as Habitat awaited this permit application to go through.
“It’s a great day,” McKenna says. “It’s everything we’ve been working towards for the last probably two years. It’s taken a long time, and there’s still more work to do, but at least now we can get the shovels back in the ground.”
That will happen sometime in mid-to-late March, so now they need to turn their attention to getting more families.
“We have families lined up for this year’s move-in,” McKenna says, “but we like to have families signed up two years out, because it takes about a year for them to put in their sweat equity, and we don’t have that right now.”
Two more duplexes are set to be built this year – one of which will likely only get to “lock-up” stage, meaning it will be weather-tight in time for storm season and await completion in the spring of 2019. Only one of those duplexes currently has families ready to move in once they are completed, and there is another duplex and a three-plex to go up after that, which don’t have families lined up, either.
To qualify for a Habitat for Humanity home, a family must make between $20,000 and $44,000 per year, and McKenna says there will be another community intake and information session scheduled for the spring, as well, in hopes of recruiting some more hard-working families who would like to own their own home by paying off an interest-free mortgage and putting in 500 hours of work either helping with the build or volunteering with the organization in some other way.
But finding families isn’t the only thing on McKenna’s plate right now. He’s overseeing the construction on a similar complex being built down in Courtenay, and now that everything has all permitting in place for both of those projects, he’s got to start looking for more land for whatever the next development ends up being.
“This problem isn’t going away,” he says. “It’s not like we can just throw up a few homes and claim success. We’re finally at the point, though, where we’ve built up enough momentum that as long as we can get more consistent so we can always be building. My job now turns to land acquisition.”
Then there’s the fundraising – always an important part of the process.
“We just spent almost a half-million dollars buying that property on Hilchey, and that depletes your money pretty quickly,” McKenna says. “We also need $4-million to finish building out those subdivisions.”
One way they’ll get there is by having the public sign up for monthly-giving. McKenna says they made a huge leap forward in the fall by offering the option for people to donate small amounts, directly withdrawn from their accounts, every month instead of relying on lump-sum giving.
“People are very receptive to the idea that they can just have $5 or whatever come out of their account every month,” McKenna says. “If every one of the 30,000 people in Campbell River gave us $5 every month, we could build 12 homes a year.”
Anyone interested can sign up at habitatnorthisland.com and look in the top right corner for the “donate” button to set up monthly-giving or a one-time gift to make a difference.