In Early 1994
Habitat for Humanity Mid-Vancouver Island began as Habitat for Humanity Nanaimo when Ron Caldwell brought together a small group known as the Advisory Committee. Society status was granted by the province in December 1994 and the first official Board of Directors took office in September 1995.
The first task of the Board was to create the National affiliation documents which were completed and sent to the National office in June 1996. Habitat for Humanity Nanaimo Society changed its name at the 2007 Annual General Meeting to Habitat for Humanity Mid-Vancouver Island Society, to reflect our building areas within Mid-Vancouver Island.
In Late 1997
A property with a house was found on Rosehill Street in Nanaimo that would allow the construction of a duplex. After much fundraising efforts, the property was purchased in May 1998 for $75,000. In September 1999, demolition began on the old house on the property. The Dedication ceremony for the first two homes, a duplex built at 514 and 516 Rosehill Avenue was in April 2000. One of the homeowners, Phyllis and her children, Ryan and Krystle said that their home represented, “a new beginning, a place where they could settle down and pursue their dreams.”
The second homeowner Keri and her two children, were also excited to be moving into their new home and “overwhelmed with appreciation for everyone who had helped.” She also said,
“It’s difficult to explain how grateful I am to Habitat for Humanity Nanaimo. They’re helping people that have basically lost all hope, that have resigned themselves to living in poverty and never getting ahead. I just hope all of the people and businesses, all of the volunteers who have helped us, realize what they’ve done for us. It’s not just a structure, it’s so…appreciated.”
In The Spring of 2005
After inheriting and moving into their grandmother’s house, the original homeowners at 516 Rosehill Street sold their home to Habitat, receiving the principle back on their no-interest mortgage. After painting and refurbishing the home, Anne Marie and her two children became the new homeowners and moved in at the end of January 2006.
In September 2000
A Groundbreaking ceremony was held for the next project, a single-detached house at 429 Lambert Avenue in Nanaimo. This project involved many volunteers dismantling and rebuilding an older fire-damaged two bedroom house. Some of the material was reused and a new three-bedroom house was built. The purchase of this property was made possible through Doris Lee, who said she wanted others to have the same opportunity to own a home, so decided to donate half the assessed value of her home to Habitat for Humanity Nanaimo. “They were looking for donations,” said Lee. “I thought it was a wonderful thing for the community. I was a single parent with six kids. I’ve been there, done that.” After receiving corporate and private donations, the house was completed and Joel and Peace and their two children became homeowners in February 2003. In September 2009 Habitat Mid-Vancouver Island bought back the home and after renovations were complete, Bozena and Ryszard and their two children moved into their newly renovated home in October 2010.
Plans for the development of our ReStore got underway. After much effort, in December 2001, Habitat Mid-Vancouver Island launched the first ReStore in BC and the 19th in North America! The ReStore started with one paid Manager and many volunteers. The ReStore relies on donations of quality new and gently used building materials and merchandise from homeowners and retailers. ReStore revenue pays for all Habitat Mid-Vancouver Island’s operating costs as well as money to help with local building projects. In addition, thousands of tonnes of reusable building and home renovation materials are diverted from the landfill – promoting consumers to reduce, reuse and recycle.
The next house built was on a property at 390 Wakesiah Avenue which was donated by its former owner, Ann Scott. An excavator and demolition crew tore down the condemned house to make room for the new single-detached Habitat home. Sandra, the single mother said, “I have three daughters and we’re just so excited about owning our own home. Wherever we’ve rented they’ve said they never felt like it was home. I earn enough income to pay the bills, but it leaves little left at the end of the month. It’s not that we’re poor, but we can’t make enough money to put together a down payment.” The family was selected before Christmas in 2003, and in joining the team of volunteers to demolish the old house, Sandra commented, “I was so dumbfounded. Here were all those people I’d never laid eyes on before. They don’t even know us but they’re doing this volunteer work that helps us. I don’t even know the words to say thank you for that. It’s enriched my life already by knowing them.” The dedication ceremony was in early 2005 when the new family received keys to their new Habitat home.
In September 2006
The Groundbreaking ceremony was held at 680 Montague Road in Nanaimo for a single-detached Habitat house to be built. The house was built almost entirely by volunteer labour, and Brenda, a single mother and her daughter were chosen as the future homeowners. This property, as well as the adjacent property on Second Street was donated by the City of Nanaimo. The new family moved into their home in January of 2007 with Brenda saying “This is so exciting. It’s hard to believe this is happening. I’m so grateful to everybody who worked on this house that is now our home.”
Was the Groundbreaking ceremony at 651 Second Street for the construction of a single-detached house whose property was also donated by the City of Nanaimo. The dedication ceremony was in August, and in September 2007, Tom, Carrie and their two children moved into their new home. Carrie said, “When we first got married I dreamed one day we’d have a house. That dream has finally come true. I’m standing in it and it is a blessing.”
The next building project was the first outside of Nanaimo at 224 Strathcona Road in Ladysmith. A single-detached house would be built on a lot donated by the Town of Ladysmith. Habitat Mid-Vancouver Island partnered with a Leadership BC program called the “Legacy 7” team. Doug Godkin from Leadership BC said, “This is monumental for our community for two reasons. First we get to have a globally recognized organization place their footprint here in Ladysmith to help a family and bring together a community. Second, this project is the first time that Habitat has given a portion of a project to an outside source working as a team. This is very exciting for our community. There are so many volunteers wanting to be involved and most importantly we have an enthusiastic and connected community behind us.” The Groundbreaking ceremony took place in June of 2008. With the help of BC Housing and the Real Estate Foundation of BC, which covered many of the building costs, Teresa and her two children moved into their new home in March of 2009. At the time, Teresa was juggling three jobs as she raised her two children. Her son also struggled with health problems related to the mold in their rental home. Teresa commented, “This is a life-changing event for us and we really appreciate how this community pulled together to help my family build this home. It has been an amazing and uplifting experience for us and we find it difficult to express how thankful we are.” Teresa later got married and gave her home back to Habitat. Habitat Mid-Vancouver Island refurbished it, and Meagan and her two children became the new homeowners in March 2013.
The next build project started very quickly in the Spring of 2009 with a duplex at 1420 Sunderland Avenue and 760 Dufferin Crescent in Nanaimo which would become homes for Holly and her two children and Betty and her two children. At this time Habitat Mid-Vancouver Island began exploring new, more environmentally friendly ways to build homes and this was the first “green” construction project. “We’re an environmentally conscious organization so it follows naturally that we begin to provide energy-efficient homes for our families,” Max Stocker, Board Chair said. On December 16, just before Christmas 2009 both families were given the keys and were in their new homes. Holly said, “I can’t even describe how much it’s going to change our lives. Even just the stability. This will be our forever home. I don’t think we’ll move from here. Just to know we can put down roots and make this our home is unbelievable.”
With the donation of a residential lot from the City of Parksville and $150,000 from an anonymous donor, our first build project at 745 Humphrey Road in Parksville was off to a good start. Martin and Sadie and their two children were selected as future homeowners and in December 2010 they moved into their new home. When financial circumstances temporarily changed while Martin was training for a job, Martin commented, “They really want to keep you in your home and they work with you,” adding, “We now own our own home and it’s had a huge impact on our lives. The children now have space to move around in a nice house with a yard.” The family now marvels at the dramatic changes in their lives since being in their home.
Habitat Mid-Vancouver Island formed a partnership with Vancouver Island University. The various Trades’ Program students working at the build site provide them with a hands-on classroom. As well, whenever possible, the VIU heavy equipment operator students gain valuable training using an excavator at the build site. This unique partnership with VIU continues today with other Trades Programs involved with the house building providing approximately 5000 student volunteer hours per house.
A duplex at 608 and 612 Hecate Street in Nanaimo was our next building project. Jo-Anne, a single working mom, with her son and Kerry, Laura and their son were selected to be the future homeowners. Jo-Anne said, “It really is a miracle. I almost had a heart attack when they called me and told me. Where we live right now we’ve had some security issues. There was an incident where some guy was loose in our complex with a handgun. Not only will we feel safer in our new home, my son will be able to have a pet, a yard to pitch a tent and hang pictures in his room.” Keri the second homeowner commented, “Our hydro bills in our rental can be as high as $300 a month. This will be a green house and they say that our bills will be under $100 a month for heating. That’s what we’re looking forward to.” Both families moved into their new homes in December 2012. On moving into her new home Jo-Anne expressed her gratitude saying, “I am very grateful to have a Habitat home. I’m overjoyed by all the volunteers that have come and supported it. I’m just on cloud nine! My dream’s come true!”
553 and 555 Prideaux Street was the next duplex building project and would be constructed to meet the Built Green Gold Standard. We broke ground in April 2013 with the help of VIU heavy equipment operator students. Jennifer and her children as well as Tara and her children were selected to be the next Habitat homeowners and took possession of their homes in January of 2014.
Our current building project is the biggest to date for Habitat for Humanity Mid-Vancouver Island. A lot was purchased at 2360 Extension Road at the south end of Nanaimo, a six house strata, which was named the “Meadow Hill” development, and is being built in three phases, two houses per phase. In February 2014 the 30,000 square foot lot was purchased for $290,000. Once again, the VIU trades instructors and their students took part in excavating the site, and the Carpentry program students were provided with a ‘living classroom’ while working at the build site.
The first two houses built, Phase 1, were Unit 1, a three bedroom house, and Unit 2, a four bedroom house. In 2014, the first family selected for Unit 1 was Jamie, Lisa and their two children with another child due in December. For Unit 2, James, Lisa and their four children were selected, the biggest families selected to date in our build history. In September 2015 we received the building permits and on October 13, 2015 we had our official Groundbreaking ceremony. After many delays due to a very rainy winter, and servicing on the site, the Dedication Ceremony for the two homes was held on August 18, 2016. Jamie, homeowner of Unit 1 said, “For the two of us, home is a place, that new place is here. Forever our family need not worry of the hardship of obtaining a house due to Habitat’s kindness. Our lives can prosper, and we can finally call this blessing our home. Thank you.” James, Unit 2 homeowner said, “We feel very fortunate to have a home to call our own. A home that our children can grow up into. It feels very comforting to know that we will no longer be at the mercy of landlords deciding to sell, and us having to move and uproot the children from their established neighbourhood and relationships within the community. It is paramount that the children have a secure and comfortable home they can rely on. We are incredibly grateful for this.”
Soon after the first two Habitat homeowners moved into Unit 1 and 2 of the Meadow Hill development, work began on Phase 2, Unit 3 and 4, both four bedroom houses. The Groundbreaking ceremony took place on November 10, 2016. The Board of Directors of Habitat Mid-Vancouver Island accepted the recommendation of the Family Selection Committee and unanimously approved Audrey and her three children and Feras and Ruba and their four children to become the newest Habitat families. Vicki Huxtable, Chair of the Family Selection Committee, noted, “The committee received 37 applications for the two houses. The families went through a rigorous and extensive review process with the criteria based upon the family’s housing need, ability to pay and willingness to partner with Habitat. We are absolutely delighted that these two families will be the newest future homeowners in the Meadow Hill project.”
The Habitat model enables families who wouldn’t qualify for a conventional mortgage to become homeowners. One of the conditions of qualifying to become a homeowner is that each family must complete 500 sweat equity hours of volunteer time before they are offered mortgages on their house.
Audrey was thrilled to be chosen as a future Habitat homeowner. “My children and I are so thankful to be chosen as a Habitat family. To have a good home where my kids can grow up is all I have ever wanted for them. With a tight rental market, it has made finding a healthy, safe and affordable home very difficult. With the opportunity of being a Habitat for Humanity homeowner, I can now provide that for my children. Thank you!”
As former refugees, Feras, Ruba and their family have experienced turmoil and upheaval that is hard for us to imagine. Having now been in Canada for almost three years, the opportunity to become homeowners was met with shrieks of excitement when the call was made to them informing them of the Board’s decision. “After a very hard, difficult, long journey we arrived to Canada, in Nanaimo three years ago. We could manage our life for these last years in Canada, living with dignity with our four children. It never came into our mind that we would be able to own a place in Canada, and always were feeling unstable and temporary, until the incredible thing happened in our life when we were told by Habitat for Humanity that our family will be one of the partner families. Our life, plans, dreams, have changed. We will live now in our own house, and raising up our children as good Canadians.”
Habitat Mid-Vancouver Island is about to begin building the final two houses at the Meadow Hill development. The family selection process has begun and we anticipate a decision regarding these two new future homeowners by the end of April, 2017. Upon completion of the six houses of our Meadow Hill development at 2360 Extension Road in Nanaimo, we will have built 20 homes, renovated 3 homes, and served 23 families in Parksville, Ladysmith and Nanaimo.