Courtesy Habitat for Humanity Southern Alberta

A Habitat for Humanity Southern Alberta affordable housing project in Calgary’s northwest community of Silver Springs is transforming lives through homeownership, providing new homes and new hope to 32 families.

“Moving into this home has really given us an opportunity to start a new chapter together and have a home base without having to move yearly,” said Robert, a Silvercreek homeowner and single dad. His is one of six families who recently moved into the project’s first phase.

Robert and his two children, nine-year old Lilli and her three-year-old brother Elliot, picked up the keys to their new three-bedroom townhome at the beginning of February. They are the 300th family to achieve homeownership through Habitat for Humanity Southern Alberta’s housing projects.

Robert, a former professional chef, recently shifted careers and now works full time leading a team at a commercial siding company. However, he had struggled to save up a down payment and qualify for a mortgage.

This left his family at the mercy of Calgary’s rental market, necessitating five moves in the past nine years. The reasons for the moves were varied, including incidences of black mould, skyrocketing utility bills due to poor insulation and, finally, a shooting 15 metres from the front door of Lilli’s school.

Thankfully, all that has changed since they moved into their new Silvercreek home. For Robert, homeownership has brought stability and a sense of belonging he never felt as a renter.

“We couldn’t do this without our community sponsors. The profound transformation in people’s lives is a direct response to this coming together in such a beautiful way to make things happen.” – Gerrad Oishi, Habitat for Humanity Southern Alberta president and CEO

Instead of having to bar their door for their own safety, Robert and his family now welcome neighbours. A few weeks ago, community members dropped by with welcome baskets packed full of donated items from local businesses.

The Silvercreek project, when complete, will cover just under one acre of land and feature four buildings – each housing eight stacked, two-storey, three-bedroom townhomes. So far, 20,000 volunteer hours have gone into the project’s construction, with completion expected in 2022.

“We build our homes to be very energy efficient. Not only is it good for the environment, but it keeps energy costs low,” said Gerrad Oishi, president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Southern Alberta. “Everything that we do is really driven by how we can help families.”

Habitat works with architects and local tradespeople, as well as community groups and individual volunteers to build each project.

Qualifying buyer families must also make a hands-on contribution to the project by dedicating 500 hours of volunteer work, either onsite or in Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore retail outlet.

Habitat’s unique home purchasing model allows families to buy a home with mortgage payments tailored to their income, with no interest and no down payment. Mortgage payments are capped at 25 per cent of the family’s income.

“It’s truly an affordable model, and because Habitat holds the mortgage, we can reinvest back into new projects,” said Oishi.

This year, the CREB® REALTOR® Community Foundation will contribute the final installment of its $1-million legacy grant to Habitat for Humanity Southern Alberta to help fund the Silvercreek project. Local Realtors have also chipped in, volunteering their time during several build days.

“We couldn’t do this without our community sponsors,” said Oishi. “The profound transformation in people’s lives is a direct response to this coming together in such a beautiful way to make things happen.”