Home programs with common goal

At the same time as Habitat for Humanity Manitoba was building 21 homes on Lyle Street in St. James, another announcement was made on the affordable housing front. Just a day before former U.S. President Jimmy Carter had been sawing boards for a new Habitat for Humanity home, then succumbed to dehydration and had to be rushed to St. Boniface Hospital for observation, the Manitoba Tipi Mitawa (MTM) Inc. was being presented with $540,000 in federal-provincial funding to help build 10 new homes. Tipi Mitawa (my home) is an affordable housing program established by the Manitoba Real Estate Association and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs to help Indigenous families transition to homeownership.

It’s the proverbial “hand up” not a hand-out” that brought the Carter Work Project to Winnipeg for the second time on July 13 and 14 for the Habitat for Humanity building spree. The Carters’ first Habitat building spree in Winnipeg was in 1993.

As John Reckford, the CEO of Habitat for Humanity International, said during a luncheon sponsored by the WinnipegREALTORS®-established Housing Opportunity Partnership (HOP), which the Carters were scheduled to attend, but couldn’t due to the former president being rushed to hospital, the Carters and Habitat recognize the enormous need for safe and affordable housing in Canada, the U.S. and the world.

Reckford said Habitat for Humanity gives low-income families a place to live, a place to call home, gives people a sense of belonging to the community and the ability to live their lives with dignity.

It’s the same message that affordable housing projects, such as HOP and Tipi Mitawa, have maintained.

“Today’s announcement will allow more Indigenous families to realize the dream of homeownership,” said Harry DeLeeuw, the co-chair of Tipi Mitawa. “When we help families realize this dream, we contribute to building stability and vibrancy in our communities and neighbourhoods for generations to come.”

Neil and Kimb Williams purchased a MTM home eight years ago.

“Prior to that we had lived in apartments, getting by, establishing our careers while raising a family,” said the Williams. “The MTM program was more than a dream come true, it changed our lives, gave us a sense of ownership, pride and budgetting skills. It gave us the ability to establish our children’s futures. Our home has also become the place that our extended family gathers for holidays, special occasions and care.”

The key to being a hand up is that all the families in the three programs have to be working and pay a monthly mortgage — they are “homeowners” in every sense of the word.

Whether it’s through Habitat, MTM or HOP, all homes are sold at fair-market value.

Habitat also requires that families put in 500 hours of sweat-equity towards the construction of their home.

On the other hand, MTM provides financial literacy and homeownership education, as well as down payment assistance, said David Salvatore, the CEO of MREA.

With the new funding through the federal-provincial Investment in Affordable Housing (IAH), “10 Indigenous families will gain stability by residing in a neighbourhood of their choosing,” said Salvatore. “Ten Indigenous families will see their children experience stability by growing up in the same location, attending the same school and developing life-long friendships.”

Reckford said at the July 13 HOP luncheon that every child should be given the chance to live in a decent home, and that the stability it provides means greater education outcomes for children, as has been proven by study after study.

Sandy Hopkins, the CEO of Habitat for Humanity Manitoba, quoting a 2015 study completed by Habitat in Canada by the Boston Consulting Group, said within a very short time of moving into their new home, children saw a marked improvement in school performance. Habitat children were also more likely to complete high school and some level of post-secondary education.

Another benefit was that Habitat family members were more healthy, recording fewer visits to a doctor or hospital and had fewer missed days from school or work.

“We have consistently seen that families purchasing their homes for Habitat tend to sink their roots into the neighbourhood and become engaged in school and community programs,” he wrote in an article last year for the Real Estate News. “A significant number of the Habitat children have graduated from, or are attending, apprenticeship, college or university programs. Many have launched professional careers.”

All the benefits incurred by living in a Habitat home can be transferred to individuals and families living in HOP or MTM homes.

For the families who have purchased MTM homes, Salvatore said it provides a foundation for financial stability.

“Some of our Manitoba Tipi Mitawa families have already realized over $30,000 in home equity growth.

Salvatore said 10 new Indigenous families will be given the same opportunity with the new funding and allow them “to experience the benefits of homeownership, and together, through partnership, will make our province an even better place to call home.”

Meanwhile, HOP, a program also to offer homeownership to low-to-modest income people, has stipulations, such as having an income under $64,606, being a first-time buyer and being able to qualify for a mortgage to purchase the property with a five-per-cent down payment, plus $1,500 in closing costs.

In addition, the home must be owner-occupied, not rented out, and purchasers are required to live in the home for at least 10 years. If a home is sold before then, the original purchaser must find a buyer or pay a forgivable second mortgage.

The later requirement hasn’t been a problem in the city’s West End, as the homes are being bought by residents of the area and want to stay in the neighbourhood.

So far, HOP has sold 90 infill and existing homes (homes that are purchased, renovated and put up for sale) in the West End.

“What cannot be stressed enough is how HOP has been instrumental in reversing a decline in good-quality affordable housing (since its inception in 1997),” said Peter Squire, the vice-president of external relations and market intelligence for WinnipegREALTORS®, who has been with HOP since it began. “Its strategic targetting of streets, blocks and homes has been successful in instilling hope for positive change and has been a catalyst for others to reinvest and upkeep their properties.”

During his first visit to Winnipeg, former U.S. President Carter said he and his wife were motivated to become part of Habitat 34 years ago in order to break down the barrier between rich and poor.

Such a barrier is being broken down in Winnipeg and Manitoba by Habitat, MTM and HOP.