Finding the affordable habitat

First in a series on affordable housing

Martin and Sadie Binet with sons TyMartin and Luc at their new Parksville Habitat for Humanity house.

Martin and Sadie Binet with sons TyMartin and Luc at their new Parksville Habitat for Humanity house.

While the numbers may be small, Habitat for Humanity provides one solution to the lack affordable housing in District 69.

“It’s not affordable housing, it’s affordable home ownership,” points out Teresa Pring, executive director of the mid-Vancouver Island society.

She points out affordable housing in B.C. is seen as a rental issue, which is what the Binet family were struggling with before they took possession of Oceanside’s first Habitat house in December 2010.

Martin Binet said getting the Habitat house has had a huge positive impact on their lives and he has been much happier since moving back into the city from a rental.

He said he could see his wife Sadie was also happier, but it really struck him when other “family and friends would point out, ‘she seems so much happier, she seems content and happy,’ they said.”

After looking at small, disappointing apartments in their price range in Parksville they ended up in Fanny Bay, where he spent $500 and a lot of time on the commute each month and Sadie had to drive TyMartin, 4, and Luc, 3, all over.

“We had no idea how family-friendly Parksville was, my wife was driving the kids up to events in Cumberland or Alberni or wherever, now we’re two blocks from a school,” Martin said, adding they’re walking distance from parks and go to things like Mother Goose story-time and library events.

Set on surviving on one income, the family couldn’t find appropriate accommodation in the city until they got the opportunity to own their own home.

So they began the long, complicated application for the Habitat home, filling out a 30-page form, doing interviews and waiting months.

“Habitat really wants the right family, they do criminal record checks, they take a long time on your background,” he said, “but when we finally found out we were overjoyed.”

While the 35-year-old organization has built over 400,000 houses around the world, the Binets still have the only one in Oceanside as the projects are sparked by donations and volunteer efforts such as the donation of the lot by the City of Parksville.

Successful families have to meet complex criteria, showing both the need and the ability to pay back an interest free loan to the society. They also have to contribute 500 hours of sweat equity to a recognized charity before taking possession.

The Nanaimo-based mid-Island branch of Habitat for Humanity has completed 10 houses, one duplex renovation and hopes to do three more in 2012. They act as the lending institution and establish mortgage payments at 25 per cent of the family’s gross income.

Martin said Habitat has already worked with them when their financial circumstances changed temporarily while he was training for a new job.

“They really want to keep you in your home and they work with you,” he said.

The family now marvels at the dramatic changes in their lives since being selected just over a year ago.

“We now own our own home,” he said, still sounding a bit surprised. 

“It’s had a huge impact on our lives,” adding the children now have space to move around in a nice house with a yard.

He said they still couldn’t afford to be in Parksville if it wasn’t for the Habitat house, which as the organization’s slogan says, provided them with a hand up, not a hand out.

“It’s not affordable here, it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world and everyone wants to live here,” he said, adding he knows of others who commute into Parksville from outlying areas where rent is cheaper.

He said their mortgage is similar to what they might have paid in rent but it feels completely different, they’re not throwing the money away every month.

Between the no-interest loan and not needing 10 per cent down, families save an average of $233,000 over the life of a Habitat mortgage, Pring said, explaining that this acts as a temporary boost to help families improve their overall financial situation.

The mid-Island society is always looking for land donations or deals as the best way to spark new projects and hopes to keep helping families in the Oceanside region.


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