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Housing now planned for site once eyed for a recovery home

From left, Habitat for Humanity Greater Vancouver former board member Gil Yaron, current CEO Tim Clark, and current board director Oliver Hamilton, and Richmond East MLA Linda Reid, at the announcement transferring the land ownership at 8180 Ash St. from B.C. Housing to Habitat for Humanity Greater Vancouver.  - Habitat for Humanity Greater Vancouver
From left, Habitat for Humanity Greater Vancouver former board member Gil Yaron, current CEO Tim Clark, and current board director Oliver Hamilton, and Richmond East MLA Linda Reid, at the announcement transferring the land ownership at 8180 Ash St. from B.C. Housing to Habitat for Humanity Greater Vancouver.
— image credit: Habitat for Humanity Greater Vancouver

What neighbours complained was going to be a headache has instead turned into a bit of an eyesore on Ash Street.

But there’s good news coming for residents near Garden City Road and Blundell who are growing weary of seeing an unkempt 25,000-square-foot property that still remains undeveloped and has sat fallow for years.

The former proposed site of Turning Point’s home for recovering drug addicts, at 8180 Ash St.—a proposal that drew fierce opposition from neighbours who expressed concerns about increased crime in the family-oriented neighbourhood which has an elementary school nearby—will likely soon become six single-family houses, with a built-in mortgage helper, if city council approves.

That green light could come as soon as September.

Tim Clark, CEO of Habitat for Humanity Greater Vancouver, said ground breaking could occur as soon as this fall on the project, which if all hurdles are cleared will see home ownership become a reality for six families in a mix of two and three bedroom houses, that each include a rental suite, and are roughly 1,900 square feet in all. One of the homes is earmarked as handicapped accessible.

The inclusion of a rental suite in each house, which will help homeowners with their mortgage payments, is new to the Habitat for Humanity model, Clark explained.

Habitat for Humanity is an international non-profit organization with aim of building “simple, decent, and affordable”  housing,

Prospective home owners must go through a rigorous screening process. They must be employed, have a minimum household income of $35,000 and a maximum income of $65,000 annually.

Monthly mortgage payments will be stabilized to 30 per cent of their household income, which includes property taxes and home insurance.

“We use home ownership as a means to end the cycle of poverty,” Clark explained.

By stabilizing the most expensive aspect of raising a family, the partner families won’t have to choose between keeping their lights on or buying groceries, she said.

Families will receive an interest-free first mortgage on the portion of the home they are able to afford based on their income, amortized over 25 years. The second mortgage stays silent.

As well, families who five or 10 years down the road decide to sell their homes, Habitat for Humanity has the first right to regain ownership of the home.

What’s more, the monthly payments those families make for the duration of their stay, is returned to them entirely, which could potentially assist in another property purchase.

The six selected families will each be required to contribute 500 hours of sweat equity on the project, through volunteer hours done on the build site.

“That’s their downpayment,” Clark said.

The entire project will cost $1.65 million to build,.

This wouldn’t be possible, Clark said, without a partnership with BC Housing, which sold the site to Habitat for Humanity Greater Vancouver for a fraction of its true value—about $400,000—while also giving the organization a mortgage and reasonable interest rate.

While several companies have already come forward to make the project a reality through in-kind and cash donations—including $100,000 from Gordon Food Services, $35,000 from the Al Roadburg Foundation, and architectural work from Abbarch Architecture Inc. and landscape architectural work from PWL Partnership—Habitat for Humanity is still far short of its fundraising goal, Clark said.

But that won’t delay the build, she said.

She said more than 40 companies have already lined up to have their staff work at the site, each donating $5,000 to the cause.

What’s also unique about this project, Clark said, is that renters who might not otherwise be able to afford the cost of rent in Richmond, will get a chance to have a permanent roof over their heads.

Renters will also be thoroughly screened, and will only have to pay a percentage of their income toward rent. As well, renters will have to contribute 250 hours toward the project.

Habitat for Humanity has applied for a development variance permit, which Clark hopes will be issued by the end of September. The permit is seeking the city’s approval to vary the minimum lot width from 12 metres to 8.3 metres, and to vary the minimum frontage from six metres to 0.38 metres for one lot, down to 2.7 metres for another, and to 0.60 metres for a third.

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