'We were still determined to make our dream of homeownership a reality, no matter how long it took': Lindsay homeowner

The dream of having a place to call home sweet home came to fruition this weekend for a Kawartha Lakes family.

Lindsay residents Brittany, Jason, and their two children now have a safe, decent, and affordable place to live as a result of an effort led by Habitat for Humanity Peterborough & Kawartha Region (Habitat PKR), along with local volunteers and community partners.

A housewarming celebration took place on Sunday (April 21) at the couple's new home in Lindsay, where they were joined by friends, family, and supporters.

Jenn MacDonald, Habitat PKR communications and donor services manager, said it's very meaningful to see a family move into their new home.

"These celebrations are the heart of everything we do and always reignite our passion and motivation to help more families have a safe, decent, and affordable place to call home," MacDonald told kawarthaNOW.

"There is nothing better than seeing the smiling and proud faces of our homeowner families after they worked hard to purchase their own home through our unique homeownership program. It is even better when they're surrounded by the volunteers and community supporters who all had a helping hand in getting the family to this milestone, where we can collectively celebrate, and shed a few happy tears together."

Like many families in the City of Kawartha Lakes, Brittany and Jason faced barriers to homeownership prior to partnering with Habitat PKR, the organization noted.

"It was hard to imagine how we could ever become homeowners due to the rising interest rates and the insane average cost of a house in Lindsay," shared Brittany in a media release. "But we were still determined to make our dream of homeownership a reality, no matter how long it took."

Families qualify for Habitat PKR's homeownership program based on their need for affordable housing, a willingness to partner, and the ability to take on the responsibilities of homeownership. All partner families are required to contribute 500 volunteer hours, which Brittany and Jason completed working alongside staff and volunteers at the Habitat ReStore.

"We partner with families to help them buy their own home through a unique affordable homeownership solution," said Susan Zambonin, CEO of Habitat PKR, in the release.

"With skyrocketing rental rates and the cost of housing at an all-time high, it is not surprising that many families are spending close to 50 per cent of their income on housing. The Habitat model works to empower partner families through a no-down-payment, geared-to-income mortgage model providing them with financial stability and the opportunity to make forward-looking choices."

Habitat PKR was able to help Brittany and Jason through Habitat's buy-back program. The program provides Habitat PKR with the option to repurchase a Habitat home from a family when they are ready to transition into market homeownership or move on otherwise. The home is then renovated, if necessary, and used to provide a hand-up for another family.

This Habitat home was built in 2019 with the support of volunteers, community partners, the Lindsay ReStore, and the City of Kawartha Lakes, which donated the parcel of land which now houses five Habitat homes.

A grant from the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada, support from volunteers, and home-building partner Alf Curtis Home Improvements, the pre-existing home was able to be renovated and refreshed before Brittany and Jason took possession.

When asked how families can apply to be considered for a Habitat home, MacDonald said people who are interested in the affordable homeownership program can start by reviewing the eligibility criteria that is available on Habitat PKR’s website at habitatpeterborough.ca/homeownership.

After reviewing the criteria and believing they could be eligible, the next step is to complete an expression of interest form, which is also on the website at the bottom of the homeownership page.

"This is a pre-screener to verify that they are eligible for the program," MacDonald said. "If they meet the eligibility, our housing program manager will reach out with an invitation to submit a full application, which includes things like a credit check."

"If their full application meets all the requirements, a home interview is completed, their application is sent for review with our partner financial institution, and then Habitat PKR sits down with the family to provide them with the good news and reviews the partnership agreement."

Habitat PKR hosts monthly information sessions through which community members can learn more about the program and ask questions.

The timeline from application to possession varies. There is no typical timing as it changes for every build based on the construction schedule, how quickly paperwork is sent in by the applicant family, when Habitat PKR hears back from the bank with a first mortgage approval, the family's completion of its volunteer hours, and many other factors, MacDonald noted.

For Brittany and Jason, there's joy in their new beginning.

"There is so much pride in becoming a homeowner — it is an investment goal we have always worked hard towards," Brittany said. "A fresh start like this is exactly what our family needs — we can't wait to begin this new chapter together."

Habitat PKR is a not-for-profit organization that strives to mobilize volunteers and community partners in building affordable housing and promoting homeownership. Since 2002, Habitat for Humanity PKR has helped 82 local families into affordable homeownership.

Natalie Hamilton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, KawarthaNOW