Habitat homes changing lives for families

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The day Kyle Gordon and his family moved into their High River home was the day their lives changed for the better.

Moving into a duplex built by Habitat for Humanity’s Foothills chapter set off a course of events that has given them a home to call their own and opened the door to new opportunities.

“Because of Habitat it’s actually improved the quality of life and things we’re able to do as a family 10-fold,” said Gordon.

The mortgage payments on their home are less than what they were paying for rent, he said.

Not only did this put the family on a more stable financial footing, it allowed Gordon to take courses to earn additional certifications, which lead to a new, higher-paying job.

Gordon said they couldn’t afford to buy a home the conventional way, getting a mortgage from a bank.

“We didn’t think that was going to be in our grasp, at least not for a very long time,” he said.

It wasn’t a handout, said Gordon, it’s a helping hand.

“They want to help you do better with your life and with your family,” he said. “You still own the house, you’re paying for the house.”

Habitat for Humanity is now looking to help change more lives with an Okotoks build project in the D’Arcy Ranch development.

The organization is one of eight supported by the Western Wheel Cares charity for 2017.

Marilyn Boake, Foothills Chapter chair, said the funds will go towards the group’s next build project in Okotoks, a duplex in the D’Arcy development.

She said construction is expected to start late in spring 2018.

The chapter still has to finish fundraising before construction can begin – the fundraising target is $80,000 to go towards the build project.

“We’re making some big strides towards our fundraising goal and we do have our fifth annual online auction happening in the spring, that helps us go a long way too,” said Boake. “The Western Wheel Cares money will absolutely be used to finish the fundraising for the build project.”

She said it’s expected to cost around $500,000 to build the Okotoks duplex.

The chapter provides land and $80,000 in cash as well as $40,000 in construction materials, or gifts and services in kind for the project.

The rest of the funding comes from Habitat for Humanity’s Build Fund, which comes from mortgage payments made by Habitat homeowners across southern Alberta.

Homeowners have to put in 500 hours of “sweat equity” volunteer labour.

Boake stressed that Habitat for Humanity doesn’t give away homes. Homeowners take on a no-down payment, interest-free mortgage that is amortized for as long as it takes to keep the costs within 25 per cent of the family’s income.

“We don’t give away free houses,” said Boake. “People living in the homes actually do take on a mortgage and they do own the home.”

Habitat for Humanity in Southern Alberta is testing out new models for build projects in light of rising construction costs and rising difficulty in getting people to volunteer.

In Okotoks, Boake said it will use a construction management model where Habitat for Humanity will select trades-people and suppliers, but anything to do with actual work on the building and interior will be overseen by construction professionals.

Volunteers will be limited to exterior projects such as building decks, fences and landscaping, she said.

For the eventual homeowners, Boake said a portion of their volunteer time can be done at the home working on exterior tasks, at a Habitat For Humanity project in Calgary or they can work at the Habitat ReStore.

They can also arrange volunteer work with other non-profits groups in the Foothills.

They are still accepting applications for families for the Okotoks home. Boake expects to have the selection process finalized in February.

Families can apply and complete an assessment online at habitatsouthernab.ca

Those who meet criteria will be contacted to attend an information meeting to continue the application process.

To contact Habitat for Humanity Foothills by phone call 403-253-9331, ext. 272 or by email at fhinfo@habitatsouthernab.ca

Donations to the Wheel Cares Campaign can be made via credit card, debit, cash or cheque (payable to Western Wheel Cares) at #9 McRae Street, mailed to Box 150 Okotoks, AB T1S 2A2 (please do not mail cash) or by calling 403-938-6397. Visit www.westernwheel.com to donate using Paypal.

Donations of $10 or more will receive a 2017 official tax receipt at the end of the campaign.

For more information call the Western Wheel office Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 403-938-6397 or email Gayle Wolf at gwolf@okotoks.greatwest.ca

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