Habitat to evict four families
Organization said families did not fulfill volunteer hours, pay
Saturday, Aug 16, 2014 06:00 am
Since 2007, Habitat for Humanity Edmonton has given 277 families a home across the capital region. In all of that time, only five families were asked to leave before their tenancy was over.
That number will now rise to nine, as Habitat evicts four of its families from their St. Albert homes. They all have to move out by Aug. 31.
To Katie Canning and her two daughters, that means moving back in with her parents in Morinville.
“The notice outlines that we all signed our tenancy agreement and that if any policies are not adhered to then you will be asked to leave,” she said.
“They are disappointed that the constant minimum hours of 25 per month have not been met.”
Based on Habitat’s website, families qualify to live in the homes if they have children under 18 living at home and their current housing is substandard, does not meet their needs, or they are otherwise not able to purchase a home.
Families must earn between $32,000 and $56,000 per year. They also pay a mortgage and must commit 500 hours on the Habitat site.
A parent of two children with disabilities, Canning had moved into her Habitat home on 70 Arlington Dr. in September 2013.
She said she recently took a four-month stress leave. During that time, she did not receive her regular pay.
She was also not able to keep up with her volunteer hours, she said.
“If Disability sees that I am volunteering and doing labouring work and not working then I will lose my disability,” she said.
She added that she since tried to catch up with both her outstanding volunteer hours and rent, paying $300 extra on top of her regular $900 per month.
She hoped the families would be given another chance. She also worries that the controversy around the Habitat build in St. Albert may have influenced the organization’s decision to let more families go.
Asked if she told Habitat about her personal issues, she said they knew.
“They said that’s unfortunate but you do need to complete your sweat equity hours,” she said.
In 2007, Habitat started a one-year probationary tenancy program that tests families as homeowners, said Alfred Nikolai, CEO and president of Habitat Edmonton.
During that time, families must complete their 500 hours of volunteer service, he said. They must also prove that they keep their home and yard in good condition, and can make their payments on time.
While most families complete this tenancy agreement, the four St. Albert families did not keep up with their payments and volunteer hours, he said.
“Sometimes, no matter how good the opportunity is, families just don’t seize that opportunity for whatever reason,” he said. “And we absolutely won’t budge on the sweat equity issue. Every one of our families has to provide 500 hours.”
That’s not to say Habitat will not make allowances, he said.
The organization is flexible and will allow people to pay them later or make up lost time, he said. He stressed that the organization is not out to make money, as mortgage payments are reinvested into new Habitat homes.
But these four families had simply reached their limit on extensions, he said.
He added that it was pure coincidence that all of the families come from St. Albert.
While Aurora Place has been at the centre of controversy for years, neighbourhood complaints did not influence Habitat’s decision to let the families go, he said.
“We did put 30 families in there at once and for whatever reason a larger percentage of the families we selected there than normal aren’t going to be successful,” he said.
“We’ve given them one heck of a wonderful chance and opportunity here and they chose not to follow through with it.”
Canning said none of the families have been able to communicate with Habitat since they were given their eviction notice.
She had hoped they would be able to work out a solution, she said. Now they all need to find a new home.
“One family has seven kids and is looking at a place that costs $2,000. We need a home. We can’t just be on the street,” she said. “So now we are going back to Morinville. I have no choice.”