Moving in to new home
Neighbours hail completion of Aurora Place
By: Kevin Ma
| Posted: Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 06:00 am
Samantha Rowland and Emersyn Ewart are best buds at Elmer S. Gish school.
As of this week, they’re also neighbours with their own homes at Aurora Place, a 30-unit affordable housing project in Akinsdale organized by Habitat for Humanity.
Emersyn, 8, said she was very excited to move in. “Not only do I get to live beside one my best friends,” she said, referring to Samantha, “but my mom, my sister and I finally get our own house.”
Samantha, 7, said she loved the big park and play area by her new house, and planned to have her friends over for play dates. “We are all very excited for our new home.”
The Rowlands and the Ewarts were two of the 10 young families who got the keys to their new homes Thursday at Aurora Place.
About 100 people, including many energetic kids, were on hand for the dedication ceremony.
“Your Aurora Place development was once just a dream,” Bill Giebelhaus, vice chair of Habitat’s board of directors, said to the crowd, but volunteers and donors rallied together to make it reality. “Together, we chose hope.”
The 62 kids in this development will soon be attending local schools and playing in local playgrounds, he continued, becoming a part of community life. “They will now remain rooted in the city of St. Albert and continue to be a part of this incredible city.”
City council gave Habitat for Humanity about $840,000 in provincial grants back in 2010 to buy the land that now houses Aurora Place. Construction started in November 2011 and wrapped up this summer.
Local businesses chipped in money, materials and muscle, said Habitat for Humanity president Alfred Nikolai, with Tony Roma’s restaurant providing free lunch for 570 volunteers on 35 different occasions. “What you don’t see is the sweat, the passion and the caring that has gone into each of these homes.”
In addition to the hundreds of volunteers, he continued, each homeowner personally puts at least 500 hours of work into building their own homes, working shoulder to shoulder with their future neighbours. “It’s sort of an instant community.”
Jennifer Rowland, Samantha’s mother and a teacher’s aide with the St. Albert Public school board, said she and her three kids had been living in a high-rent apartment prior to hooking up with Habitat. Her neighbour, Dayna Ewart, had been living with her parents in Akinsdale while working as a clerk at the Sturgeon Community Hospital.
St. Albert is a great place to raise kids, Rowland said, but its homes aren’t cheap. “There’s no way (Ewart and I) as single parents could ever afford to provide our children with our own homes without this opportunity.”
Some city residents strongly criticized this project, Nikolai said, but their anger was short-lived. “The neighbours across the street gave our volunteers cookies,” he noted, and many others chipped in to build the homes themselves.
Chantelle Shebib, who has lived in Aurora Place since November, said her neighbours across the street have been very friendly, waving and nodding as she goes by. “You feel welcome.”
Rowland said many critics changed their minds once she explained the point of the project to them. “We’re hard-working people,” she said. “We’re not looking for a handout.”
St. Albert needs a diverse array of homes and families, said Mayor Nolan Crouse, and that’s what it has at Aurora Place. “What you have here is 30 young families continuing to demonstrate that we are a place for all to live.”
Ewart said having a home is a huge opportunity for her family. “I grew up here in St. Albert in this area, and I couldn’t imagine raising my kids anywhere else.”