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Habitat for Humanity offers TBM affordable housing lifeline

Members of council were anxious to explore potential affordable housing partnerships with Habitat for Humanity, such as land donations for future builds
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The Town of The Blue Mountains logo.

Habitat for Humanity Grey Bruce has stepped forward to offer the Town of The Blue Mountains a potential lifeline to affordable housing.

Grey Fryer, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Grey Bruce, was a delegation at council’s meeting on Sept. 18. He said his organization offers multiple partnership opportunities to local municipalities for affordable housing.

For decades, Habitat has offered assistance to families in need of housing through its unique home-ownership program.

“We help people thrive,” Fryer said.

Habitat offers a unique multi-step home-ownership program.

  • Step 1: Families are selected based on three criteria: need for affordable housing, ability to pay a mortgage, willingness to partner with Habitat.
  • Step 2: Approved applicants purchase their home at fair market value with no down payment, zero interest, 20-year term mortgage held by Habitat.
  • Step 3: Mortgage and property tax payments are calculated so families pay only 25 per cent of their income to ensure housing costs are affordable.
  • Step 4: As part of their partnership with Habitat families contribute 500 volunteer hours building their home and other Habitat homes alongside the team and volunteers.
  • Step 5: Families attend homeowner education workshops, budgeting, estate planning and home maintenance.
  • Step 6: Mortgage principal payments are invested into the home-building program, to acquire land and build more homes in the future.

Fryer explained that 30 per cent of Habitat families were living in community or subsidized housing before joining the program, meaning the organization helps reduce waiting lists for subsidized housing.

“Families reduce their dependence on social assistance and contribute to their communities by paying property taxes – a win for families and a win for municipalities,” he said.

The organization also works to keep these homes affordable. It has the right of first refusal to purchase a home back from a family to ensure the home remains affordable for 20 years. In addition, appreciation of the value of the homes is shared between Habitat and the homeowner.

Since 1987, Habitat Grey Bruce has built 69 homes, helping 78 families (including 189 children. Its three local ReStores generate a new income that covers 100 per cent of the organization’s administrative costs.

On the issue of affordable housing, Habitat is willing to partner with the municipality on multiple fronts. The organization can partner directly with a municipality. The municipality would donate surplus land to Habitat, which would then go through its usual process to build affordable housing units on the land.

Habitat is also willing to partner directly with municipalities and developers on affordable housing in two different ways: a developer would donate lots to Habitat for them to build homes, or a developer would sell Habitat homes that have been built at a reduced price for the organization to use in its program.

“We believe this is a win for each partner,” said Fryer.

Members of council expressed their excitement about the opportunities presented by a potential partnership with Habitat. Council voted unanimously to have staff prepare a report about how the town could partner with Habitat on affordable housing projects.

“We need to be innovative. We need to be in partnerships. It really is an exciting program,” said Coun. Paula Hope. “It is a way out, for now, for us. I feel very strongly about this opportunity and we should take advantage of it.”

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About the Author: Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Chris Fell covers The Blue Mountains and Grey Highlands under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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