A rendering of the future Polo Gardens development as submitted to Council in February 2017.

New Habitat for Humanity home coming to Central Saanich

When Lowe’s opened their new store in Langford, they celebrated by donating $5,000 to Habitat for Humanity, and the money will go to a build project in Central Saanich.

Polo Gardens, a new 20-home housing development on the corner of East Saanich and Jeffree Road, is being cleared and the developer, Cube Project Management, donated one micro-lot to Habitat for Humanity. In a proposal to Central Saanich council, the firm proposed donating the lot in lieu of an amenity contribution, which developers are normally obliged to provide (which would have been $180,000 cash towards affordable housing and general amenities). Council chose to allow the developer to donate $24,000 instead towards park amenities and one lot in the development to Habitat for Humanity.

Yolanda Meijer, Habitat for Humanity Victoria CEO, is happy council approved the application. Sarah, a legal assistant with two young boys, has been chosen as the recipient of the home.

Meijer said that Habitat for Humanity is the only affordable housing program that allows residents to own their homes. Habitat provides no-interest loans and does not require a down payment, instead requiring recipients to put in 500 hours of “sweat equity”, literally building a portion of the home themselves. Their yearly payments are calculated to be no more than 30 per cent of their income.

There are many models of affordable housing ownership, said Meijer. There are housing corporations like the Greater Victoria Housing Society, but she said they are not allowed to manage an isolated rental unit in an area that is otherwise market housing.

Developers could also offer lower prices, as David Chard has done with a new condo proposal in Victoria with one and two-bedroom units meant for people under certain income thresholds, but Meijer said that there are downsides.

‘You could set an alternative market price to begin with, but how do you control that in the future? What stops those people from turning around and selling it two years later for market [value]?”

In this case, Habitat for Humanity would manage the ongoing resale of the unit so it stays in the affordable housing pool, which Meijer said was “very important to Central Saanich council.”

Ultimately, she said a covenant would be placed on the property to ensure it is retained as an affordable housing unit, even though it is under an ownership model.

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