A first-of-its-kind affordable housing project for Richmond, to be managed by Habitat for Humanity, officially broke ground Friday afternoon on Ash Street.
The non-profit housing organization plans to build six, modest-sized homes on a large lot that once housed a transition house.
BC Housing sold the land to Habitat at a discounted rate — $400,000 for the $1.9 million lot.
The goal of Habitat is to help low to moderate income families transition into the housing market.
“We move families into a home where we stabilize their shelter costs at 30 per cent of their income through an interest-free mortgage,” explained Stephani Samaridis, Habitat’s operations director.
Under the program, families can only earn $35,000 to $65,000 in after-tax income.
The money the families pay toward a mortgage is saved by Habitat and returned to them; however, it can only be used as a down payment on a market-priced home.
Habitat seeks out families who are in unsafe or unsuitable rental conditions.
“It’s a step out of uncertain rental conditions into a stable home environment where they have a community around them, and then, eventually, they can move into an area that they can choose,” said Samaridis, while noting that families may typically stay in the Habitat home between five to 20 years.
Each house is about 1,775 square-feet, with three bedrooms for the mortgaging family. Also in the house is a small, two-bedroom rental unit.
The rental units are targeted toward single parents with one child or grandparents. People renting the secondary suit can’t earn more than $35,000 in income.
The rental money will go toward the upkeep of the development with the balance going back to the homeowner family, said Samaridis.
Chosen homeowners will have needed to complete 500 volunteer hours with Habitat, while renters will require 250 hours.
“That’s their investment, as well,” said Samaridis.
The development is the culmination of volunteer contributions and donations from the community and corporate sponsors that keep the mortgages low.
Abbarch Architecture designed the development for free and PWL landscape architects also added its services free of charge. Volunteers will help build the homes and sponsors will provide materials at cost, said Samaridis.
Meanwhile, the City of Richmond planning staff and city council endorsed the development, which was questioned by neighbouring residents who expressed concerns about design, density and traffic.
Each home has a carport and the development can be accessed from Ash Street or a cul-de-sac at Dayton Court.
Each home would cost about $290,000 to build but about half of those costs are expected to be covered by the donations.
Homeowners are expected to maintain their homes prior to moving out and any costs associated with repairs would come out of the savings.
The 12-unit development will include a communal barbeque and picnic area.
“We don’t want it built in a way where it divides one another. We’re encouraging a community feel model,” said Samaridis.
Mayor Malcolm Brodie and Richmond East MLA Linda Reid were on hand for the groundbreaking ceremony on Friday.
When asked if Canada needs a national housing strategy, Reid said it was a good question, best answered by the Ministry of Housing, while Brodie said more money for federal co-op housing projects is needed.
Both said the new Habitat project would be a welcome addition to the community.
“If we didn’t have a home to go to, a place of connections, where would we be?” asked Reid.
The project should be completed by the end of 2016.