Photo by Habitat for Humanity
Author: Sue Stroud, Citizen Journalist
Neighbours helping neighbours, coming together in times of need; the Coast Salish people have a word that describes this concept perfectly – tsetsewatl. You can see this principle in action right here in Saanich. This word epitomizes the mandate of Habitat for Humanity. The idea behind Habitat is simple, but brilliant. Skilled trades people and other volunteers work side by side with citizens in need, to create affordable homes. Those needing the housing contribute hundreds of hours of “sweat equity” towards their new home and then pay it forward by helping to build another Habitat house as well.
Habitat was founded in 1965 on a farm in Georgia. US President Jimmy Carter popularised the Habitat model in 1984 by working on a site in New York. Since then President Carter and his wife, Rosalynn have donated a week every year to work on a Habitat project somewhere in the world. This year they will be working on a project in Leogane, Haiti, the epicentre of last year’s devastating earthquake.
The idea of working together through Habitat for Humanity is similar to the barn-raisings that were held across North America to help new farmers get their start. Everyone in the community came out to help build a barn, and a feast and barn dance were held to celebrate the work they had all done together. In Habitat’s case, the housing projects generally take a few months rather than a few days to complete, but the celebration of working together is just as important.
The Community Council of Greater Victoria states on its website
, “Many residents of the region face an affordability crunch. Their real wages have declined, and the cost of the essentials of living (transportation, food, housing, child care, education) are increasing.”
The Habitat model is certainly one answer to the ongoing struggle to provide affordable housing to families in Saanich. More housing is needed as increasing numbers of families from all walks of life find it harder to make ends meet.
When the sod was turned on June 29th at 409 Ker Road in Saanich, participants were helping initiate a new Habitat for Humanity project that will see an old single family dwelling turned into two new homes for local families. Building these three-bedroom homes will provide a helping hand for local families in need. “We are thrilled to be starting our next build,” says Gordon English, Habitat ‘s Victoria Board Chair. “Knowing that two more low-income families will have this opportunity to own their own home is very gratifying to all of us working on behalf of Habitat.”
Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard is keen to support Habitat for Humanity Victoria’s innovative approach to providing affordable homes in the community. “The Ker Avenue duplex project is in a perfect location near many amenities and has a creative design that respects the neighbouring properties,”
says Leonard. “This will be Habitat’s 7th and 8th home construction in the District of Saanich and we encourage Habitat to keep them coming!”
Saanich is already the home of the five unit ‘flex-plex’
on Bethune Avenue. This development is environmentally friendly and includes amenities which will help those living with disabilities, it also provides three secondary suites which introduces even more affordable housing into the community.
The Ker homes are the 17th and 18th Habitat houses built in the Greater Victoria area in the twenty years since Habitat Victoria was founded. This is a great achievement for those wondering where the workers who provide services for seniors and others in our community are going to live.
“Habitat is beautiful, it’s creative, it’s a cool way to get the community involved,”
states Richard Leblanc founder of the Woodwynn Farm Therapeutic Community
, a project to help the homeless in the Greater Victoria Area, “I am obsessed with ‘community’ and Habitat is a great embodiment of this spirit.”
To find out more about how you can help contact Habitat for Humanity Victoria 250-480-7688. Be a good neighbour: get involved.