As Habitat for Humanity’s fourplex at 560 8th St. in Castlegar took shape over the last year, Andrea and her son Max watched across the street from their supportive rental housing complex.
Andrea, who asked that her last name not be used, works in mental health and as her income grew, she paradoxically felt more stressed because she no longer qualified for BC Housing’s program. She faced limited housing options, leaving her feeling “hopeless and fearful” about providing a stable home for her son.
“Little did I realize,” Andrea says, “we might be that family.”
On Thursday, she and Max and three other families were introduced as the new residents of the complex during a key presentation involving dignitaries from Habitat, the City of Castlegar, Columbia Basin Trust, and provincial government.
Two families have already moved in and another saw their unit for the first time following the ceremony.
The Habitat model lets people buy homes without a down payment and with a mortgage tied to their income. In return, they must provide 500 hours of volunteer service, which can include helping to build the home.
The four-family, ultra energy efficient project in Castlegar consists of two three-bedroom homes and two two-bedroom homes on land donated by the city.
Andrea says home ownership was always her dream, but seemed nearly impossible. Student debt was among the “anchors” holding her back.
While she imagined living in the new fourplex with her son, she felt the project was meant for someone else. But she inquired and through the process felt “supported, encouraged and uplifted.”
“Now here we are, Max and I, our lives forever changed,” she told the crowd in an emotional speech. “This home represents more than just boards, nails, and paint. It embodies the dreams of stability, security and a place to call our own.”
Tanya Makasoff, another homeowner, said she was “proud and thankful” to be standing in front of the new unit she shares with her daughter.
As a single mother working full-time, she couldn’t quite make ends meet to buy a home with a mortgage, she said, and feared one day she might be forced to leave the Kootenays.
“Thanks to Habitat for Humanity and the many generous donors who contributed to this new build, I know this is my home and my daughter’s home and we can set our roots deeply and peacefully in this community we both love,” she said.
Johnny Strilaeff, president and CEO of the Columbia Basin Trust, which provided funding for the project, had a personal connection to the site.
Not only was he born and raised in Castlegar, his childhood home is “about 250 yards” away.
“Thirty-five to 40 years ago, I used to ride my bike through here with my friends,” he said. “You have all those wonderful memories as a kid. But I’m much happier to see what’s here today.”