A new home for low-income families will soon be part of the Okotoks landscape, thanks to help from the Town, a developer and a homebuilder.
Habitat for Humanity, Southern Alberta –Foothills Chapter has announced its next build will take place in Okotoks, in the new D’Arcy subdivision in the town’s northwest end.
Marilyn Boake, chair of the Foothills Chapter of Habitat for Humanity, said the two lots designated for construction of a duplex unit were sold at a significant discount by D’Arcy developer Anthem United.
In addition, the Town of Okotoks opted to waive development permit fees of $550 and building permit fees of $9,664.34. The Town is also donating up to $10,000 from its Eco Efficiency Reserve fund to provide a drought-resistant landscape for the homes once they are built.
Morrison Homes also provided a corporate sponsorship for the unit, she said.
“These three factors played a significant part in our decision to build in Okotoks,” said Boake. “Land here is considerably more expensive than in High River. We had fundraised enough to proceed with a High River lot, but once these three parties same forward it normalized the land cost for us.”
Steve LePan, director of sales and marketing for Anthem United, said the D’Arcy community was designed to be multi-generational, diverse, and inclusive, making it a great fit for Habitat for Humanity.
“Partnering with Habitat for Humanity adds to the fabric of the community, to add more diversity and be more welcoming to everyone,” said LePan.
Sam Hudon with Morrison Homes said the company jumped at the chance to be part of a Habitat for Humanity build in Okotoks. He said partnerships are an important part of the business, and giving back to the community is vital.
“When this opportunity came up we jumped on board because we believe in it,” said Hudon. “We think it’s a great way to support families and empower them to maintain and better quality of life.”
Gerrad Oishi, CEO of Habitat for Humanity, Southern Alberta, said that’s exactly what the organization is designed to do. It’s about giving people a hand up, he said.
The families helped by Habitat are often every-day average people, he said. They work hard and often hold more than one job, they have children, but the cost of living is too high and they struggle, he said.
“Often they struggle between rent and food,” said Oishi. “They might be moving several times trying to find affordable accommodations.”
With Habitat for Humanity, the families put in 500 hours of volunteer time helping to build the home, and once it is complete they are able to take over a no-down-payment, interest-free mortgage through Habitat, he said.
Mortgage payments are set at 25 per cent of the family income, so it will be affordable for the family in the long term, he said.
“One of the most wonderful parts is that these families go from a place of struggle to a place of stability,” said Oishi. “The families really thrive.”
Okotoks CAO Elaine Vincent said Habitat for Humanity is important for Okotoks because it’s in alignment with council’s desire to diversify housing in town.
“This was a way to be able to model that for the balance of the community, to see how it can look, how it can feel, and how it can function,” said Vincent.
She said the duplex will be part of one of the newest neighbourhoods in Okotoks, which will make the families feel welcome in their new community right from the beginning.
Waiving development and building permits was an easy decision to make in order to make the home more affordable, she said. Council also chose to provide up to $10,000 to landscape the property so families didn’t have to cough up the expense after moving in, she said.
“We thought that was a way they could get into their home and begin to enjoy it,” said Vincent. “The plan is to have it in for Christmas 2018, and you don’t want to be worried about landscaping and dogs in the dirt, so this was something the Town could do, and something we could model for the future when other pieces come forward for the same type of ask in the future.”
Mayor Bill Robertson said he’s thrilled to see Habitat for Humanity back in Okotoks. The town is in need for more affordable housing and more options for people who can’t put down large down-payments, which this provides, he said.
“This is one more piece in the puzzle toward affordable housing,” said Robertson. “Every little bit counts.”
He said it’s also a great community initiative, as volunteers will be able to help with build dates or provide materials and gifts in kind for the home as it progresses.
“One person can’t do everything, but everyone can do something,” said Robertson. “It’s really important to do this kind of thing. It gets that need for affordable housing out in the community and that notion of working together as well.”