Homes sweet homes
Community Foundation helps Housing Society give low-income families a fighting chance
By: Scott Hayes
| Posted: Saturday, Mar 09, 2013 06:00 am
The Gazette wraps up its series on the St. Albert Community Foundation and the grants it provides to agencies and programs in the city. Stories in the series have appeared each week for seven weeks. Previous stories in the series can be found at www.stalbertgazette.com.
The long road to many units of new affordable housing is nearing its apex as the second and last phase of construction on Big Lake Pointe wraps up in North Ridge.
The project is a joint effort between the St. Albert Housing Society and Alpha and Anderson property management. When completed in April or May, it will make 118 one-, two- and three-bedroom units available.
The first 39 market-price units are now available and applications are coming in every day. The second building is coming soon with 79 units for moderate-income households with prices set 10 per cent below market price.
The housing society has been working toward raising $1.5 million through its HOMEtown Capital Campaign. This effort – a one-time appeal to increase the number of suites available for reduced rent rates – intends to offer 12 units to low- income, single-parent families, families rebounding from domestic violence and seniors living below the poverty line.
“We’ve had many people who have been on our inquiry list since the fall of 2012,” explained Doris Vandersteen, the organization’s executive director.
To help things along, she accepted a grant of $3,000 from the St. Albert Community Foundation during a presentation ceremony just before Christmas. That money went into its sustainability endowment fund to help qualifying families to pay no more than 30 per cent of their income towards rent.
This will help new tenants (including a full-time student who has a young daughter and a single mother recovering from an organ transplant) to work back to self-reliance while still living on a meagre income.
“For both of them, it really allows them to have rent that doesn’t take all of their disposable income.”
This is facilitated through its HOMEconnection program that works to provide inclusionary housing and supportive services for families in the greatest need in the community through partnerships with local agencies, she continued. It’s the big financial break that many struggling families have been waiting for.
“It’ll free up some of the tremendous pressure that they live under, as well as allow them to really get on their feet. It’s very hard to move forward when you’re struggling every day.”
She says it will allow them to pay their rent and still have enough left over for groceries and other basic expenses.
Sheila Derby is the resident manager who moved in a month ago to one of the occupied suites of the first building. She says that her spacious accommodations are top notch.
“It’s a very quiet, comfortable place to live,” she exclaimed.
Moving from a house in the Maritimes to an apartment in the Prairies meant more than a shift in geography but it has been an easy transition with none of the problems that some people might expect. The standard perception of a squalid low-income housing project doesn’t apply to the shiny new Big Lake Pointe.
“I have to say that I definitely feel like I can relax in my home in the evening with my husband.”
While this complex nears its big opening, Vandersteen is still looking into the future. Affordable housing, she says, is a problem that will never go away.
“We still see a large gap between the housing that’s available and the housing that some of our more modest income households can afford. Really, that gap is very hard to be met by the market because, by its very nature, market housing is geared to more moderate to higher income.”
She hopes to work toward that goal through the help of partnerships with the business community, government funding and donations by individuals and organizations like the St. Albert Community Foundation.
People can donate to the cause through the society’s website at www.stalberthousing.com. More information can also be obtained by calling Vandersteen at 780-544-2205.
Application forms and more information on the housing complex can be found at www.biglakepointe.com.