Local Habitat for Humanity group has eye on retaining young families

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A new building project is in the works for Stellarton and, while it will be on a smaller scale physically, it will have big effects.

It’s a Habitat for Humanity house that will provide affordable housing to a local family.

Stellarton Mayor Danny MacGillivray explains, “It was an idea that formulated with me after I was elected mayor. I saw an article about a big development in Spryfield that Habitat for Humanity was doing and I thought it would be really cool if we had something like that, but on a smaller scale, in Stellarton.”

After conducting some research, MacGillivray discovered there are other developments in Oxford, Cape Breton, and on the South Shore.

“So I contacted (organizers in) Halifax and after several meetings we have formed the Pictou County Chapter of Habitat for Humanity. And the first build we plan to do will be in Stellarton.”

The local chapter has several committees to iron out the details: a land committee as well as finance, fundraising, building and family committees. It is the land committee that will work on selecting the land for the single-family dwelling to be built in Stellarton.

“The program is not a free house for someone; Habitat for Humanity becomes your banker, so it’s a hand up, not a hand out. That’s their motto.”

MacGillivray says Habitat for Humanity tries to target young working families. A family qualifies for housing if they are below a particular income threshold. The family committee of the Pictou County Chapter of Habitat for Humanity will work with the Habitat for Humanity group in Halifax on selecting the family from those who apply and qualify.

“There is some criteria,” MacGillivray explains. “You have to have a steady stream of income so you have to be working. It’s geared toward young, working families who don’t qualify for a traditional mortgage; they pay 30 per cent of their income towards the mortgage.”

MacGillivray feels this development — and potentially others — will be a benefit for the community because it will keep young families in Pictou County.

“I thought it would be good to help us retain young families.”

And while this project is for a single-family dwelling, MacGillivray is looking to the future.

“In Oxford they have a 10-home settlement, they have three built now.” He is optimistic that could happen in Stellarton on reclaimed mine land.

MacGillivray says organizers are hoping to have the house built during this construction season. They will need a contractor to be the site supervisor for safety regulations but the home will be built by volunteers.

The family the house is being built for is also expected to pitch in on the build.

“The family has to contribute 500 hours of volunteer work or sweat equity to either the house itself or in the community at large — it could be hours at the food bank, for example — but they have to give back to community in some way,” MacGillivray said. “That’s why it’s a hand up and not a hand out.”

The build itself will also present fundraising opportunities. For example, corporate teams could help with the build; they would pay a fee to help and it would be a team building exercise for them and a fundraiser for the Pictou County builders.

“We’re hoping the Nova Scotia Community College will be key in the construction phase as well.”

To help share the news and excitement, the Pictou County Chapter — which includes about a dozen volunteers — is planning an event on Thursday, Feb. 22 at the Pictou County Wellness Centre, 5-8 p.m. during “Crushers night.” MacGillivray and the CEO from Habitat for Humanity Nova Scotia in Halifax will do the puck drop and speak from centre ice on the initiative. “And we’ll be throwing some swag into the crowd.”

They will also hold a family skate with the Crushers on Sunday, March 4, also at the Wellness Centre where they will offer information on the proposed project. Both of these events are being organized by the fundraising committee of the Pictou County chapter in conjunction with the Halifax Habitat for Humanity Nova Scotia.

Check them out on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/HabitatPictouCounty/.

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