Habitat for Humanity breaks ground in Kitchener


Member of Parliament (MP) Diane Finley, minister of human resources and skills development and minister responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) was one of 30 volunteers that helped construct houses for Habitat for Humanity Waterloo Region in Kitchener on Aug. 19.

Working on the first two units of what will eventually be a 16-unit condominium complex owned by Habitat, Finley was joined by member of Parliament Peter Braid and Regional Chair Ken Seiling.

Both Finley and Braid are proud of the relationship the government has with Habitat and its sponsors like CMHC, who has donated $10,000 as well as volunteer hours to the build.

“Habitat for Humanity shares the same goals as us,” said Finley. “They want people to have safe, reliable, affordable housing. We believe home ownership is a stepping stone to good things.”

Finley was on-hand to help with the framing of the house, but said dry-walling was a favourite task of hers. “I’ll do anything they give me as long as it’s not electrical,” she said.

Braid, who was also present at the kickoff to the project on Aug. 16, admits to not being quite as handy as Finley, but was ready to work and commented on the importance of involvement in the community.

“Their success depends on volunteers,” he said, “It’s important to help.”

Seiling echoed that thought, saying volunteering with projects like this one to remind him of the difficult situations of others.

The build, located on Howe Drive, will span three years and will be completed in several stages. Habitat’s director of development Jerry Lawlor expects this first phase, consisting of five units, to be completed by November.

Although this project has just begun, Habitat is already looking for its next build site in the area.

“The building permits were signed on a Friday and I started looking again on Monday,” said Habitat executive director Ken Freeman.

Not all of the recipients for this build have been selected, but Lawlor says Habitat is always screening applications. Qualifying recipients are given the opportunity to buy a Habitat home for fair market value with no down payment and very reasonable long-term mortgage rates geared towards income.

In addition to qualifying, recipients must donate what Freeman calls “sweat equity”, a commitment of 500 volunteer hours per two-parent family or 250 hours for a single parent family. Many choose to put the hours into building their own homes, but those that don’t have that opportunity will volunteer with other Habitat projects.

Freeman often jokes that the hours are long but the pay is low when working for a not-for-profit organization, despite the rewarding nature of the job.

In addition to the lengthy days, Habitat must struggle for resources, donations, volunteers and even land, competing against for profit developers with deep pockets who often buy up big chunks of property. Despite the difficulties in working for a charity, Freeman loves the work he does.

“It’s about your priorities and about how you fit into the world,” he said. “When all is said and done you put your head on the pillow and go ‘I made something good hap-pen’.”

To volunteer with Habitat for Humanity Waterloo Region please visit their web-site at www.hfhwr.ca.

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