The fourth home by Habitat for Humanity was turned over to its new owners on Friday. This one came as a surprise to some (meaning us at The Leader), since the last one we heard of was #3, on 12th St. SE.
It turns out Habitat did this one differently.
Karen Stone, Habitat’s new Alberta CEO, says the model where homes are built by volunteers doesn’t always work. So occasionally they’ll hire a contractor to get the job done. That was the case here.
“We alternate,” Stone says.
It’s worth mentioning again that the homes are not gifts. The people getting the keys last Friday have agreed to assume mortgage payments, plus taxes and utilities, at the end of which they become the owners. Habitat retains first right of refusal if (or when) the owners decide to sell. The idea is to retain a pool of affordable ‘starter’ homes. Stone says there are 24 such “buybacks” in Alberta at the moment.
The program in Slave Lake got started following the 2011 wildfire disaster, which destroyed 10 single-family homes managed by the Slave Lake Regional Housing Authority. The provincial government – which owned the properties – decided it didn’t want to rebuild, and offered the 10 lots to Habitat. Two homes on 10th Ave. SE were the first to be developed – largely by the efforts of a local committee of volunteers – and have been occupied by their new owners now for several years. A third home – on 12th St. SE – was developed via the same model, but took longer due to a drop-off of volunteer involvement. Hence the move to the different model.
Asked about plans for the remaining six lots, Stone says it’ll depend on need and capacity. But, “we’re looking at probably next year for another build up there.”
To qualify for a Habitat home, families must have an annual income between $35,000 and $65,000 and have at least one dependent child at home, among other criteria. They must also put in 500 hours of ‘sweat equity.’