The president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Canada has a message for governments in the Okanagan–make more land available for affordable housing projects.
Julia Deans made her first visit to the region this week after being appointed in February, 2020, right before the pandemic.
She was taken on a tour of the under-construction Habitat housing project in Lake Country. The first phase, including two triplexes and a duplex, is due for completion this summer. The build is about 2.5 months behind schedule, but three of the eight families have moved in.
Phase two will include four three-bedroom, two-bathroom units in a fourplex.
But that’s just a drop in the bucket. When the project was first announced, they received more than 300 applications, and have had over 650 since 2019.
Deans says everywhere in Canada is feeling the housing pinch, and it has become more difficult for many to find a safe and affordable place to call home.
“Here I think you have the issue of a booming economy. Lots of people are doing well, coming in, buying larger homes, more expensive homes but there isn’t enough room for the people who are there to make up the rest of the community. And that should be a concern to this community, like it is to so many others,” said Deans.
She says the big problem, here in the Okanagan, is land.
“In many municipalities across the country we see the municipal governments donating land to Habitat, or making services and amenities available at much reduced costs. That’s not the case here and it’s something that I hope the government here will look at because it is really essential in order for us to continue building affordable housing.”
Deans points out that Habitat gets families into home ownership, freeing up rental accommodation for others.
“We serve families who are working families,” she explains. “They are working families who need a hand up, not a hand-out.”
There is a long wait list for Habitat homes in the Okanagan. Deans says they need their partners to support the organization both as volunteers and as suppliers of land.
Deans notes local Restores are some of the best in the country, and they are integral to funding projects and programs.
Habitat for Humanity Okanagan refers interested families and individuals to other housing services and programs in the region when appropriate, to help them access other options, even as limited as they are.