The current Habitat for Humanity North Island build site on Hichey Road in Campbell River is set to be fully built-out and completed in the fall of next year, so the organization is looking for another piece of land to keep its momentum going. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror

Habitat for Humanity North Island wants to keep momentum going

Organization asks City of Campbell River for more land to build homes for young families

With its new complex on Hilchey Road in Willow Point set to be fully built-out in 2020, representatives Habitat for Humanity North Island were back in Campbell River council chambers last week asking the city for more land to keep the momentum going.

Executive Director Pat McKenna and Director of Development Tom Beshr told council that while they have been making huge progress the last few years in helping young families become home owners, the need still far outweighs the availability of housing in the region.

“We had an event on Tuesday of last week where we had 30 families come out,” McKenna says. “So obviously the demand is still there.”

After all, of those 30 families interested in applying for a home, the organization currently has the capacity to accept three.

“The need for housing is becoming beyond a crisis and coming up on ‘epidemic,’” McKenna told the Mirror after the presentation. “And it’s not just where we fit into the market that needs more. Single family housing is always going to be a part of what’s getting built, but the goal is to have a diverse supply of housing. What Shelley Howard and the Head Injury Society is doing in terms of social housing is in as dire need at this point as rental housing, market housing and Habitat housing.”

Because everyone deserves to have a place to call home, he says.

His organization measures success, in “Families Served,” McKenna told council, meaning families who got into premanent, stable housing through partnering with the organization.

“The family puts in 500 hours of sweat equity, we sell the home to the family – we don’t give it away, and people think that so we always try to get that message into every presentation – and we sell it to them with a zero per cent mortgage and set the rate at 30 per cent of the family’s income. That’s what gives that family the hand up they need.”

The mortgage payments made by those families then go into the organization’s Fund for Humanity, which they use to build more homes.

But they can’t do that without land to put those homes on.

From 2004 to 2015, they served an average of 1.5 families per year. They got that average up to about 3.5 families per year between 2015 and 2018. This year they will build and sell eight homes, serving 11 families. So they’ve obviously got momentum on their side.

To keep that momentum, McKenna says, they need to secure somewhere to build next. That was the ask on Monday night.

“We’re looking at needing our next piece of land, because we’ll be finishing Hilchey in the fall of next year, and in order to start development, you’ve gotta go through all the hoops and all the paperwork – and there’s a legitimate amount of time that it takes,” McKenna says. “So we need to start getting on that so that we don’t skip a beat and can get servicing started on the next property as we’re finishing that one up.”

So Habitat is looking for the city to identify “any city-owned surplus municpal lands,” that can be donated to the cause, as the city has done in the past, so they can keep the work going.

But if there isn’t land available for donation, McKenna says, they could always buy a piece of property off the city at a discount.

“We can build a home reasonably inexpensively,” McKenna says. “But that’s still 200-grand. So any kind of a discount you can find, you can house a family cheaper and you can do more with the money you have. If a piece of land is $500,000 and you can get it for $300,000, you’ve just built yourself an extra house.”

City council said they are more than happy to have a look at its land inventory and try to identify another suitable location for the organization.

While that’s happening, anyone interested in helping them out can purchase an online 50/50 ticket, with the proceeds going towards future builds or land acquisitions.

Only 1,570 tickets are available for each month’s draw, so your chances are pretty good. Tickets for the 50/50 raffle are $20 each, four for $50 or 10 for $100.

“Old-school paper 50/50 tickets,” Beshr says, are also available at the organization’s ReStore, located at 1725B Willow Street in Campbellton.

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