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Castlegar council pitches in on Habitat for Humanity build

Three members of Castlegar city council donned steel-toed boots, eye protection, and gloves this week to help with Habitat for Humanity Southeast BC’s latest build.

A fourplex under construction on 8th Street is expected to be completed later this month and families should move in at the start of August.

Mayor Maria McFaddin and councillors Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff and Brian Bogle were given the tasks of unpacking appliances, cleaning, and otherwise getting the units ready for finishing touches.

“There are three of us here, but we’re working like seven,” Heaton-Sherstobitoff quipped. “Whatever needs to be done in our time here, we’re game.”

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Habitat for Humanity invited city council to participate in a build day, as the city donated the land for the project.

For all three, it was the first time they had been inside, although each had been by many times to watch the buildings go up.

“They’re really nice units,” Bogle said. “People are going to be very fortunate once they get in. For us, we get a chance to see them before everybody else and give a hand up.”

McFaddin said it was “a joy” to do a little bit and get a better idea what the project will do for the community.

“This is more for us than for them,” she said. “We’re just showing up and getting to see all the hours Habitat has put in and we get to pretend we’ve done something important, but it’s really them.

“They have done this fabulous work for our community that will hopefully continue with with more partnership in the future that helps families struggling to get into the housing market.”

Habitat executive director Elaine Pura said they are getting close to letting some families know they have been selected to live there, but they are still accepting applications. If all four units are not filled when the project is complete, they will proceed to a second round of applications.

Pura said many families don’t realize they qualify, as there are mistaken assumptions about how Habitat for Humanity works. “They think we give away homes,” she said. “We don’t.”

Rather, families who could not otherwise afford to buy their own home are allowed to purchase one under favourable terms based on a number of factors. Families they work with are most likely renting and unable to get financing for home ownership, Pura said.

“We work to fill that niche,” she said. “We work with low-to-moderate income families. We look at their credit rating, their debt load, and their income”

The families who will live in the Castlegar units will have gross incomes between $40,000 and $70,000. Pura said some people who apply have incomes too low, meaning they won’t be able to pay down their mortgage, while others have incomes too high and with good financial management should be able to become home owners on their own.

“It’s that sweet spot in between where we give that hand up,” Pura said. “It’s definitely not a hand out, definitely not a free house, and really for families who are going to succeed and thrive in this home and couldn’t get there on their own.”

While some families live in Habitat homes long-term, others eventually purchase another place and Habitat buys back their home, preparing it for someone else. Pura said that is exactly what is happening right now with another home they built in Castlegar several years ago.

Pura said despite great need and interest, some families don’t come forward because they find the application process daunting. The initial inquiry is easy enough, giving a family an idea of whether can go forward with the process. But the next step involves filling out forms and sharing financial information.

Pura said many families don’t continue because they either find it overwhelming, or they’re too busy, or they assume they won’t be successful. “That’s not true unless you complete the process,” she said.

Elaine Pura, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Southeast BC, stands in front of the new build, expected to be completed later this month. (Greg Nesteroff/Vista Radio)
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