Families in Sooke who may have given up on the dream of owning their own home will soon be presented with the possibility of doing exactly that; but there are a few hurdles that need to be crossed before that opportunity becomes a reality, according to Yolanda Meijer, the Chief Executive Officer for Habitat for Humanity.
The organization is exploring the possibility of building a 12 unit town-home development in Sooke but need to receive an indication of interest within the community before they are willing to proceed.
“We’ll be having a free information session at the Sooke Family Resource Society on Thursday, Oct. 19 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. and are inviting anyone interested in learning more about the program to drop in and learn about this opportunty. Our decision to proceed will, at least in part, be based on the level of interest we see at that meeting,” said Meijer.
One of the primary issues facing Habitat for Humanity is rooted in a lack of understanding about how the organization actually makes home ownership possible.
“We do not just give homes away to needy people. That’s a common misconception that we often have to dispel,” said Meijer.
“Our program is designed to give a hand up, not a hand out, and every person who ends up in a Habitat home will pay the fair market value for the home.”
The difference, according to home-ownership coordinator Sara Johnson, lies in the way the home is sold to recipients.
“Habitat holds the mortgage on the property and sells it to the recipient at fair market value, but the mortgage is zero interest. No down payment is required, and the mortgage payments will never exceed 25 to 30 per cent of the recipient’s gross income. In that way, people can own their own home without being pushed out of the market by the need to save for a down payment while renting, or fear that rising interest rates might cause them to lose a home.”
To qualify for one of the twelve homes under consideration, applicants would have to be willing to volunteer 500 hours of time over the course of two years, and be a family with at least one child under 10 years-of-age. They must also be employed with a family income of between $40,000 to $60,000.
As well, applicants cannot already own a home, and if they wish to sell the Habitat home at a future date, they can only sell it back to Habitat for Humanity, again, at fair market value. In that way, the opportunity for “house flippers” to take advantage of the program is taken away.
The homes are generally three bedroom, 1200 square foot, town-homes, built in groups of three or four home units, although Johnson explained that the organization can go to a four bedroom home where required and are open to special modifications to accommodate families where disabilities call for other additions.
While Johnson said the purpose of the potential program offering in Sooke is designed to service the community, it is also open to people from outside the community who wish to make Sooke their home.
“We recognize that the spiralling property values in Greater Victoria mean that home ownership in some areas is out of reach, and areas like Sooke still offer a reasonable alternative to people who want to own a home and like the prospect making a lovely community like Sooke their home.”
Johnson said that, while they have not yet bought the land for the development, they do have a property in mind, and whether they move ahead with the project will depend on how much interest is shown in the concept.
“The municipality knows about our plans and has been very supportive. I can also tell you we already have some people who have expressed interest and are on our contact list,” said Meijer.
“In the current home market in Greater Victoria, this could be the only way some people may have to own their own home. We want to help make that dream a reality.”