Home sweet home

Habitat for Humanity executive director John Van Leeuwan (at podium) speaks during Monday’s dedication ceremony, welcoming Mar Taw (far right), Lay Paw (fourth from right) and their two children to their home. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

It’s been a long time since Mar Taw and Lay Paw have had a place like this to call home.

Mar and Lay, along with their two children, came to Prince Albert as refugees from Burma. On Wednesday, they officially became homeowners thanks to Habitat for Humanity.

“I love the home,” a beaming Lay said shortly after the dedication ceremony.

Mar and Lay are the third family since August 2016 to become Prince Albert homeowners through Habitat for Humanity. The family still has to pay a no-interest mortgage, but the make job of contributing 500 partnership hours of service is already done.

For Habitat for Humanity executive director John Van Leeuwan, Mar and Lay represent a prime example of the type of people the organization hopes to help.

“They’re just a special, special family,” he said. “In their hearts, they’re such a giving family.”

Habitat homes are built through partnerships with the provincial government and local schools like Saskatchewan Polytechnic, whose students built Mar and Lay’s house at the Prince Albert campus.

Van Leeuwan said that local support is vital to keeping the program going.

“We couldn’t do a home build without the community support and Sask. Polytech has been one of those schools that has just been exemplary in the building quality.”

While seeing another family move into their own home is always satisfying for Van Leeuwan, the need for affordable housing is still greater than ever.

Habitat for Humanity already has three more homes under construction, with a fourth scheduled to start up in two to three weeks. However, if the past is any indicator, those homes will have families waiting for them before completion.

The organization handed out 13 application forms at an information night on Sept. 12, and Van Leeuwan anticipates that roughly half of those families will get accepted.

“It is a bit of an uphill battle in a sense because the need is not waning,” he said. “I think it’s growing. When we see the changes that have happened in the CMHC (Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation) structure and the requirements to own a home, it’s increasing the challenges for families, especially (in the) lower-income (bracket.)”

For now, however, they’re just happy to see another home up and running.

Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit organization that provides low-income families with access to affordable homeownership.

The provincial government has invested $9.85 million in the program to build houses in 13 different communities since 2009.

Prince Albert Carlton MLA Joe Hargrave was on hand to represent the government at the opening. He said the homes allow people to become proud, connected members of the community, and thanked Habitat for Humanity and Saskatchewan Polytechnic for their efforts.

“Community partners such as Habitat for Humanity are essential to making our commitment to affordable housing a reality,” he said. “Habitat for Humanity is one of the best possible examples of communities coming together and making good things happen.”

Mayor Greg Dionne was also on hand for the opening. He too lauded Habitat for Humanity for their role in the community.

“The more homes we get, the more revenue we have available to build, and with partners, the government of Saskatchewan giving us extra money, the city writing off land wherever we can, and with all of us coming together, that’s what a community is about.”

@kerr_jas • jason.kerr@paherald.sk.ca