A place to call home

(Left to right) CMHC representative Kristina Johnson, new homeowners Shawn and Chantal, Nemo Hassan and Yasin Quasim, Saskatchewan Rivers MLA Nadine WIlson and Habitat for Humanity Prince Albert executive director Jan Thomas cut the ribbon on January 25, 2019 to dedicate a pair of new Habitat homes. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

An ongoing partnership has opened the door to homeownership for two more Prince Albert families.

Habitat for Humanity, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation (SHC) celebrated the official dedication of two new Habitat homes on 16th Street West Thursday.

The homes were finished in the summer, with families moving in during July and August. The houses, which are located side-by-side, were built with support from Saskatchewan Polytechnic and Correctional Service of Canada. Local businesses donated things like light fixtures and countertops, or gave a discount on things like flooring.

“Habitat is proud to celebrate the completion of these two homes. Completed last summer, but better late then never, we’ve still got to celebrate because it’s a huge milestone for everyone,” said Jan Thomas, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Prince Albert.

“I was riding on the high last summer when we moved them in, because that’s always the exciting part, when you give them the keys and they get in. It definitely brings back the memories of those families and the excitement of the weeks leading up to getting the keys for their first homes.”

One of the new homeowners is Chantal. She and her partner Shawn moved into the home with their son.

“It’s really exciting. I’m really thankful to have had this opportunity,” she said.

“It might have otherwise taken s a lot longer to get to this milestone in life, so we’re very grateful for that.”

The family had spent the prior five years with Prince Albert Community Housing. While Chantal thanked and praised the organization, she also spoke about the importance of having a stable, sustainable option for her family.

“Our son is enjoying the house. He loves the big open space. He calls it his house,” she said.

“He loves having it safe and comfortable for him. He’s … on the (autism) spectrum, so it’s nice being able to give him the stability that he needs in his life. It’s been really amazing.”

All Habitat families have to put in 500 volunteer hours of sweat equity. While Chantal, who has little experience in construction, spent a lot of it at the Habitat ReStore, she also got a little taste of life on a construction site.

“I worked on … cleaning and general labour on site. We even got to level the foundation of the house, and my partner Shawn helped with different things like drywalling,” she explained.

“It took about a year, it was a long process, but it was very fulfilling. We were able to meet other Habitat families and help with building their homes. It just makes living here that much more special, being able to have a part in doing what we could to help build the home.”

Thomas explained that in addition to skills learned during those 500 volunteer hours, Habitat sets up its families with other skills and information they need as homeowners, such as budgeting, the legalities of owning a home, insurance, mortgage and maintenance.

“They learn from our mentorship class things you would have to learn the hard way otherwise,” Thomas said.

“You don’t learn those things in high school…how to take care of a home so it lasts for a long time.”

Each of the homes is a three-bedroom bungalow, about 1,175 square feet in size.

The provincial and federal governments, through SHC and CMHC, contributed a total of $106,000 towards the construction of the two homes under the Affordable Housing Agreement. The province has spent $1.25 million with Habitat on affordable homes in Prince Albert, and $10.85 million province-wide since March of 2009.

Both homes were originally constructed offsite and then moved to the new locations. The first home is the third constructed through a partnership between Habitat and Saskatchewan Polytechnic, with carpentry students doing much of the work on the house.

The second home, located next door, was built beside the Habitat office by offenders on day parole at the minimum-security Riverbend Institution.

Corrections Canada and Habitat for Humanity Prince Albert have now built five homes together over the last six years.

The project “gives them vocational training and the ability to give back to their communities while they’re serving time,” Thomas said.

Speaking on behalf of the provincial government, Saskatchewan Rivers MLA Nadine Wilson praised the initiative.

“Our government is fortunate to have been involved in many Habitat projects across the province of Saskatchewan. It’s very rewarding to see people come together and help the families achieve strength, stability and independence that begins with a safe, quality and affordable home,” she said.

“It’s just so rewarding to be here today to see the happiness (of) the two families, to see what it means to them.”