Emily Cummings did not think she could qualify to become a Habitat for Humanity homeowner.
“My counsellor, she used to volunteer for Habitat on a regular basis and she was the one who brought up that I should apply,” said Cummings. “She explained the process, and soon as I heard through media that there was an open house the Lewis Centre, I went down, filled out the application…. now here I am, getting a home.”
The single mother of one has lived in the Comox Valley for most of her life.
On Wednesday, in front of dignitaries, fellow volunteers, and well-wishers, Emily’s dream of owning a home became a reality, as the latest key recipient at the Lake Trail Road build, in Courtenay.
“Today, we are here to celebrate,” said Habitat for Humanity Vancouver Island North executive director Pat McKenna. “Today is a day of thanks, celebration, maybe even a little rest and simplicity. Today we are celebrating the first of eight homes that will be completed this year.”
In order to qualify for a Habitat home, participants must ‘pay’ the organization with a minimum of 500 hours of volunteer time.
“They call it ‘sweat equity,’’’ said Cummings. “The majority of my volunteer work was done on the build itself. It was very hands-on.”
Cummings said the biggest difference in her life, after Wednesday, will be the ability to gain some financial stability.
With the rental market the way it is in the Comox Valley, her mortgage payments will actually be considerably lower than her rent payments were.
“The rental market, it’s insane,” she said. “Paying those rates, as a single mom, there’s never a chance you’d be able to save enough for the down-payment on a house. You can barely save enough to have maintenance on your car. So there’s no way you’re going to be able to save thousands and thousands of dollars for the down-payment on a home.
“[Today] is a super emotional day for me. I live paycheque to paycheque right now, providing for myself and my son, working super hard, and it’s just going to be a huge relief and a huge door opening for my future,” she said. “It’s going to be a more affordable range, based upon my income, as opposed to the inflated rental rates.”
“People think we give these homes away – we don’t; we sell them,” explained McKenna. “We sell them to the family, they sign onto a mortgage.”
With Habitat for Humanity homes, Habitat carries the mortgage, makes it interest-free for the homeowner, and caps the mortgage payments at 30 per cent of the household income.
“That’s affordability, and this is what we do,” said McKenna.
“I think the way that Habitat brings our community together is absolutely awesome,” said Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells. “[From] the volunteers, which have been talked about many times before; [to] the families, that are getting the hand up, and are actually working on these houses themselves, as their sweat equity.”
Cummings had some advice for anyone considering attending a future Habitat For Humanity homeownership information session.
“Just do it. I went in with a pre-conceived notion about what Habitat was about, how it worked… I was pretty much completely wrong. It is for working families, who are trying to get forward.
“The worst that can happen is that you don’t qualify. Just get the information.”
Habitat for Humanity Vancouver Island North is planning another homeownership information session this fall. Details for the next info session have yet to be confirmed.