Mid-island Habitat chapter ponders future as subdivision nears completion

By Dominic Abassi
June 30, 2017 - 5:17pm Updated: July 4, 2017 - 8:18am

The Findlay family, who will get the keys to their new home this month.Habitat for Humanity mid-Vancouver Island

NANAIMO — With their first ever community development nearing completion, the mid-island chapter of Habitat for Humanity is turning their focus to the future.

The sixth and final home in the Meadow Hill Development on Extension Rd. is set to be completed in late October, Habitat executive director Rob Hallam said.

The concept of building a complete subdivision marked a new approach for the local chapter, which previously built duplexes or single-family homes on lots around the city.

Hallam said Meadow Hill has been an exciting revelation, essentially creating their own community. "We've learned that community is really essential these days so when we're looking at our housing opportunities in the future, we're likely not to look at single-family stand alone homes, we're looking at how can we create community through the Habitat model," Hallam told NanaimoNewsNOW.

Hallam said at this point they don't have a specific project to move on once the Meadow Hill build out is complete. He said they are aggressively working with Ladysmith council on potential there. A parcel of five lots in central Nanaimo is also on their radar.

Ever-increasing land and home prices has the local chapter considering if the old Habitat model is the right way to serve as many families as possible, Hallam said. He noted their Richmond counterparts are moving families into homes valued at more than $1 million.

"We're thinking that there may well be some other ways to look at this to still achieve the same end result, which is to provide safety, security and independence in a housing scenario for families," Hallam said. "Finding a way to take increasingly expensive land and finding a way to maximize the number of families we can place on a given piece of land is really critical...Part of that equation is multiple family dwellings, like townhouses."

A family of five, currently living in Ladysmith, has been chosen from 41 applicants to live in the final Meadow Hill home. Hallam said two of Katrina and Stuart Wilson's three children have significant health issues which require frequent trips to Nanaimo Hospital. Living closer to town will be a "huge change in their life," he said.

"Their current living conditions are really quite poor with regards to mold and size of house and undoubtedly is not contributing to a healthy environment for children to be raised in, given they're already compromised with some health issues."

Families who partner with Habitat receive an interest and down-payment free mortgage. They are required to make the payments and contribute 500 hours of "sweat equity" volunteer time.

Habitat mid-Vancouver Island is also taking part in the Jimmy Carter Work Project this year, which runs from July 11 to 15. They're looking for volunteers to join an expected crew of more than 150 people who will build a playground at the Extension Rd. subdivision. Hallam said there are 16 children under the age of 15 living there.

"The notion behind that is to create a gathering place for the community we've built there."

Volunteers will also be building planter boxes and picnic tables, as well as doing work at Habitat's ReStore. You can apply to volunteer at their website.


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On Twitter: @domabassi

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