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Habitat for Humanity asks city for nearly $500K to build townhomes

Project would create home ownership opportunities for Black families, Habitat for Humanity says
Averton's Midtown development next to The Enjoy Centre.

Habitat for Humanity is asking St. Albert for funding to help build four townhomes for Black families.

Last Tuesday Dr. Ann-Marie Reddy, president of Habitat for Humanity Edmonton, approached council with an outline of the plan and its expected costs. The organization estimates each townhome will have an appraised value of $435,000, and they would like to get about $110,000 per home from the city to help with purchasing land and building the homes.

“That’s a pretty steep ask,” Reddy said. However, she said, “We know that [council] are very invested in home ownership, because they've already invested through Habitat in St. Albert.”

The houses would be built in Midtown, a new St. Albert neighbourhood by Edmonton developer Averton. Midtown is on the southwest end of the city and is still in the early stages of being built.

The families would be expected to take on half of the mortgage (about $217,500), Reddy told council, and the other half would be paid by Habitat. Families would pay roughly $1,185 per month and Habitat would provide the down payment. Families would also receive 50 per cent of any appreciation on the properties.

“There are those who look at Averton and say, ‘That’s not really what Habitat home ownership should look like,' and I would say that we disagree,” Reddy told council. “Pride of ownership is one of the biggest successes of our program, and we want homes that people feel a sense of pride in their community.”

The rest of the money to build the homes would come from federal and provincial grants and other funding sources, including Habitat’s own donations.

Habitat wants to start the project this year, Reddy said.

“Our expectation is that [the funding] is not going to be for the full amount, but some portion thereof. Any amount will be a great thing.”

Habitat’s work to increase home ownership is becoming more critical than ever as housing prices in Alberta rise, according to Reddy.

“It creates opportunity for people that were born and raised in St. Albert to be able to afford to live in St. Albert,” she said.

She said most previous homeowners of Habitat properties in St. Albert continue live in the city while paying taxes, volunteering and working in the community.

Federal funds for the project come with the condition the housing be built for Black families.

“Our Black population is definitely underrepresented when it comes to home ownership,” Reddy said. “We need to create true opportunities around home ownership for individuals who self-identify as Black.”

Coun. Biermanski 'not sold' on project

During the council meeting, Coun. Sheena Hughes asked Reddy whether families who aren’t Black could buy the houses.

Reddy said the housing could go only to Black families for the first 10 years of the houses’ life cycle, at which point they will return to Habitat’s general housing pool.

Coun. Shelly Biermanski told the Gazette she’s “not sold” on the project.

“It's a huge amount of money helping a small amount of families,” she said. “We have a lot of people in St. Albert that are just getting by.”

She doesn’t think the housing should be available only to Black families. “It has to be for all that need help,” she said.

It’s “very high-end” housing, she said.

The same amount of money could be spent on more affordable housing that would benefit a greater number of families, she said.

“I think that to provide for more people, at this particular time, I think a rental situation would be better,” she said.

Habitat is also proposing 30-year mortgages for the properties, which Biermanski described as “very expensive, long-time commitment for a few families.”

Habitat has a total of 35 homes in St. Albert, and these homes have served 77 families, according to data from Habitat. The majority of those homes were completed in 2013, when the organization opened the doors of its Aurora Place project, which contains 15 duplexes. Aurora Place was also the last Habitat project in St. Albert.

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