Explainer: Habitat for Humanity stuffs big stockings

Habitat for Humanity stuffs big stockings

Two families recently moved into new homes thanks to Habitat for Humanity Montreal. How does this charity manage to build homes from scratch?


1 These folks were among the 738 volunteers that gave their time this year to help build a duplex for two low-income families in the Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve borough. The families, which are related, moved into their new digs last week. "We’ll be able to keep warm in winter without worrying about bad insulation or fragile walls," said the mother of one of the families. This is the seventh project built by Habitat for Humanity Montreal, which started in 1998. The organization came to Canada in 1985 and has built over 300,000 homes in 93 countries. "It’s a very complicated process because we have to find the land and the volunteers that sign up to work on the site," says Louise Legault, a local freelance writer who volunteers for the organization. In addition to the volunteers, Habitat also pays to have professionals do the foundation, plumbing and electrical work. "Volunteers are mostly involved with the interior finishing work," she says. To build this latest duplex, Genworth Financial Canada, Home Depot Canada and MCAP donated $360,000 between 2006 and 2008. Construction companies also kicked in another $75,000 worth of materials.

2 Construction on this duplex started in the spring. Legault notes that it’s getting harder and harder for the organization to find suitable land within its price range. Once the land is secured, they search through applications from low-income families in order to find the best candidate in the neighbourhood. "We don’t move people around the city, they have to live around the project," she says. The selected family then spends 500 hours helping build their own home. They don’t have to give a down payment, but do pay an interest-free mortgage to Habitat. (The amount depends on their income level.) The organization also funds its projects by operating the ReStore, a building material liquidation centre at 7177 Newman Blvd. in LaSalle. Companies donate products that are then sold in the store. "Right now there are a lot of doors and lighting in the store," says Legault. "We sell everything at half off the retail price… some things are put on the floor and they’re gone right away." The store earns money for Habitat, but it also helps keep things out of landfills. "A study of 24 ReStores in Canada revealed that one store recycles on average 22 tons of material every month," according to the organization.

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