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The non-profit home-builder is changing the way it provides homes to families in need due to rising costs in the Lower Mainland.
Monday, May 17, 2021
Is it Monday already?
If spring were a day of the week, it would be a Monday. It’s a fresh new start, and objectively it should be a good day. Anyone who has woken up for work on Monday morning, however, knows it kind of sucks. And spring? Well, spring comes with allergies. I want to enjoy this fresh season, with its beautiful flowers and singing birds, but all I can notice is pollen. Lots and lots of pollen. Just wake me up on Tuesday, or whenever summer gets here. —Grace Kennedy, reporter
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Habitat for Humanity is building 19 new homes in Mission. Without volunteers, that wouldn't happen, Stephani Baker (second from left) says. 📸  Submitted
Land prices force a famous homebuilding model to adjust

Habitat for Humanity is a famous organization with a famous model: they build housing, often using donated labour and supplies, then turn the homes and mortgages over to families in need. It’s a model that has made the organization the world’s biggest non-profit home builder. It’s a model that no longer works in the Lower Mainland.

Sky-high land prices have forced the organization to adapt. Next month, 8 familiesincluding 4 headed by single mothers—will get their keys to new homes in Mission. Eleven more will follow next year. But how those people are connected to their new Habitat-built homes will be different from anywhere else in North America, outside of Vancouver.

"The Habitat classic model would be you have a plot of land that’s [about $120,000] and someone pays that mortgage down and eventually owns the asset," says Stephani Baker, the vice-president of construction for Habitat for Humanity Greater Vancouver. "That’s not our goal here in Vancouver, because we have houses assessed from 800 [thousand] to a million and a half.

"So, what we need to do is move the families out of the poverty rental cycle where they’re paying 50% to 70% of their income for their shelter costs, which is not allowing them [financial] space to have kids in extracurricular activities, for parents to stop working 2 jobs where the kids are self-parenting… We’re moving them out of substandard housing. It’s overpriced. It’s overcrowded. It’s unsafe [and] often unhealthy with rodent and heat issues."

The Vancouver model allows a family to lease a home for up to 21 years for about 30% of their income—that income is typically between $35,000 and $70,000 a year. The cost of the lease is far less than market rates, and a portion of the money paid goes into a pot the family can later use as a down payment to buy their own home. The model was created both for financial reasons and to keep things relatively fair; the idea is that being selected as a Habitat family should be assistance, not the golden ticket.

As in other Habitat communities, the residents receive a range of training, while providing 500 hours of volunteer time. Baker says the organization will build wherever it can get its hands on land. But obtaining that space to build is often the largest hurdle and requires either an organization or government that specifically wants to increase the supply of affordable housing. The Mission properties were purchased at a large discount from the municipality.

"Any land that’s offered up that allows for us to put families into homes, we are open to it," Baker said.

Donated supplies and labour help keep building prices down, and Habitat tries to keep labour costs down by using volunteers and partnering with corporations and organizations for team-building activities.

Now, though, Habitat is facing yet another challenge. When it started framing the first Mission buildings last spring, the cost of lumber for one home was $43,000. Now, the lumber cost per home is closing in on $100,000. Plywood costs are dramatically rising across the continent, with much of the blame falling on supply chain issues linked to the pandemic. Baker said Habitat is receiving help with the costs from its supplier, Blackwood Building Centre in Abbotsford, as well as tradespeople. The escalating costs are a challenge, but like the entire affordable-home-building process these days, it’s one that requires goodwill and a community effort. And in that aspect, the Lower Mainland Habitat model isn’t so different.

"We can only do this if the community is invested in it. So, when we’re building in Mission, we’re also engaging Mission and Abbotsford businesses almost exclusively on site."

By Tyler Olsen
The Floor Is Yours: share your thoughts on how house prices are affecting you in our Facebook discussion post.
Need to Know
🌾 36 acres of agricultural land in Langley could join a nearby industrial park, if council approves. [Langley Advance Times]

⚖  A repeat sex offender living at a Chilliwack halfway house was found not guilty of knowingly possessing duct tape, an item he is banned from having. [Chilliwack Progress]

🩺 Abbotsford Hospital's expanded emergency department is set to open in June. [Abbotsford News]

🔥 A 3-hectare wildfire is burning near Harrison Mills. [Agassiz Harrison Observer]

 
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A rendering of the new Ross Road connection and Teskey Way roundabout in Chilliwack. 📸  City of Chilliwack
The Agenda
NEW ROAD TO CONNECT PROMONTORY
People living in one of Chilliwack's most populated neighbourhoods will be able to get to the rest of the community a little more easily. Ross Road, which will connect the southeast corner of Promontory to Teskey Way, is under construction just north of Jinkerson Park and south of the Eagle View Ridge townhouse complex. The new road will end in a roundabout on Teskey Way. Currently, all traffic from that part of Promontory travels along Jinkerson Road, which wasn’t designed to handle so many vehicles. Construction is currently underway, and is expected to be completed by September of this year.

HARRISON DEVELOPERS HOPE TO BUILD ABOVE THE REST

The owners of a proposed development at 511 Lillooet Avenue in Harrison Hot Springs are hoping to construct a 6-storey building with a restaurant, 2 "personal service establishments," and 124 apartments. Typically, lakeside properties are limited to 4-storeys unless they are located near the edge of the village, as this one is. Neighbours have told council they are worried the increased height would block their sun. Other variances requested for this building include waiving all commercial parking requirements (and providing cash instead), eliminating more than half of the accessible parking stalls, and reducing the overall parking requirement from 155 spaces to 136. Staff are not recommending that any variances be given in regard to parking. Council will discuss the issue at tonight’s meeting.


WHEN GARBAGE CANS BECOME REDUNDANT
Abbotsford is converting to a new waste system that is seeing every resident receive new waste, recycling, and organics carts. That, of course, means that tens of thousands of garbage cans have suddenly become redundant. We asked city staff what people should do with their old cans. They suggested using them as rain barrels, backyard composters, collection bins, pet waste composters, planters, or an outdoor shelter for pets. They could also, staff suggested, be used as collection bins for items like film plastics, glass, electronics, and other recyclables that aren’t accepted curbside and which must be driven to a recycling depot. If you don’t need your bin, you can drop it off for free at the Abbotsford Mission Recycling Depot by the end of July. If you want more old garbage cans, you might be able to pick one up for free at the depot.
COVID latest
Today, all British Columbians 18 and older are eligible to book their COVID-19 vaccination appointments. Those who have not already registered can do so online. AstraZeneca is no longer being used for new vaccinations, although existing appointments for that vaccine will not be cancelled. BC said it will be using all remaining AstraZeneca for second doses, which should occur within 2 months of the first dose. The province said it was expecting to receive 276,000 doses of Pfizer each week through May, as well as an additional shipment of Moderna mid-month. [BCCDC COVID data]

Fraser Health
  • New cases: 288 Friday / 364 average (down 23% from one week ago)
  • 0 active outbreaks at hospitals / 0 active outbreaks in long-term care
  • School exposures: Abbotsford: 19 / Chilliwack: 3 / Langley: 15 / Mission: 7 / Fraser Cascade: 1
  • Workplace closures (May 13): 0
BC
  • New cases: 494 Friday /  565 average (down 19% from one week ago)
  • 387 hospitalizations (down 13% from one week ago)
  • 2 new deaths / 1,634 total
News
Around Town
🌘 Longtime astronomer Bill Burnyeat will be hosting a Zoom talk this Thursday on the upcoming lunar eclipse. Register online and borrow a telescope from the FVRL.

💵 Pay parking in Harrison Hot Springs is now underway
. New rules are in place for some areas this year.

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