LACOMBE — The executive director for Habitat for Humanity Red Deer proudly inspects a two-storey half duplex that, within the next few weeks, will become home to a single mother and her three daughters.
This unit is especially nice, Brian Brake said on Saturday morning, because it has an extra window and will have some stonework on its east side to match the development plan for the new subdivision, located in the southeast corner of the city.
Construction is nearing completion on this new duplex and its nearly-identical twin across the street and down a bit — the first Habitat project in Lacombe and a template for things to come.
“I think we’ve now confirmed that the style of home that we’re building here will be comfortable for a family of three children and their parents,” said Brake.
They aren’t really fancy and there are very few extras, excluding any special deals provided by project donors.
Brake is confident that, by the time the four families have moved into these two duplexes, his group will have a commitment to build more, possibly in Lacombe. In a departure from Habitat’s normal practices, the next homes may have single-car garages — a requirement in the area where the next build is planned, he said.
Names of the families chosen for the new homes will not be released until they have completed the 500 hours of volunteer work that is one of the requirements to be accepted for a Habitat home. Applicants must meet other criteria as well, including an annual income of $37,000 to $51,000.
The idea behind Habitat’s projects is to create affordable housing for working families, who are rigidly screened to be considered for one of the homes. Whenever a family moves on, their home is returned to Habitat, which then performs any necessary repairs, and then seeks out a new family to move in.
The previous owners are given back the principle they have paid on their home, minus the costs of repairs.
Habitat now has a presence in five counties, including Red Deer, Lacombe, Stettler, Ponoka and Clearwater. Since its inception in 1994, it has put together 22 homes in Red Deer, two in Delburne and one in Three Hills besides the new duplexes in Lacombe. Eleven of those homes have been assigned to new families in the past 12 months, sand the group is striving to build more homes within the next year, said Brake.
In the current economy, the need for affordable housing is rising while the money available to help fund the projects has dwindled, he said. His group is pressuring provincial and federal governments to help make up the difference.
The Government of Alberta had provided assistance previously, said Brake. From 2007 through 2012, the province gave Habitat groups a total of $58 million, which put between $60,000 and $90,000 into each of the homes built during that period.
While funding is crucial, volunteer labour also helps keep costs down. By Saturday morning, the Lacombe project had attracted 137 volunteers who committed 2,701 hours of their time to helping with the build.
“We could not do it if we had to pay those people,” he said.
More people are needed to finish the project.
While special skills are welcome, they are not required. Volunteers will get all the training they need on site from construction manager Todd Lamoureux. Anyone who would like to spend a few hours working on the homes is asked to contact volunteer co-ordinator Megan Oshust, 403-309-6080, ext. 2.
Further information is available online at www.habitatreddeer.ca