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Innovative Habitat for Humanity housing project first of its kind in Canada

Cathy Dobson Norma Lagacy couldn’t hold back tears of gratitude as she and husband Gerry accepted the keys to a new Habitat home on Guthrie Drive.
Mary and Nelson Ettinger, married 47 years, are one of five senior couples moving into new affordable housing built by Habitat Sarnia-Lambton. It’s a blessing, Nelson said. “We will always be grateful.” Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson

Norma Lagacy couldn’t hold back tears of gratitude as she and husband Gerry accepted the keys to a new Habitat home on Guthrie Drive.

“Aren’t we lucky, everybody?” she asked a crowd of about 150 gathered outside the five-unit multiplex built entirely by volunteers.

Some 507 volunteers on 39 teams completed the unique project on time and under budget, said Habitat Sarnia-Lambton CEO Sarah Reaume.

The total cost was about $750,000, all donated by the community.

The five homes at a former difficult-to-develop brownfield site come with a mortgage specifically crafted to suit older people in need of affordable housing. It allows homeowners to accumulate equity as they pay off the mortgage, but also keeps the units as affordable seniors housing in perpetuity.

It’s a first for Canada, said local Habitat president Rob Vandenende.

“This is a beautiful moment when we can say people can truly be home for the holidays,” he said during the opening ceremonies on a chilly evening last week.

Vandenende praised all of the volunteers who made it possible, in particular Sarnia-Lambton’s construction community.

With the five new homes, Habitat Sarnia-Lambton has now provided 55 families with affordable housing, he said.

Lambton Warden Bill Weber praised the volunteers and Habitat employees. This is the third Habitat project taken on by Lambton County and he anticipates more.

“Wow, what a great crowd and a great celebration,” Weber said.  “I share the joy of the families celebrating today.”

The Guthrie Drive build was unique in several ways, including the varied groups that co-operated to provide funding and free labour.

Ontario Works recipients, the Lambton Presbytery, numerous women’s teams and corporations supported the project.

The presbytery represents all United churches in Lambton, said representative Pat Whitton.

“This is an instance in how a community can work together to do great things,” she said, adding the Lambton Presbytery is disbanding at the end of the month so this was a “farewell” project.

Kim Racher, Habitat’s director of build services, said apart from some very hot summer weather construction went very smoothly. After 10 years on the job, Racher announced she is leaving Habitat and was recognized by Reaume for “making a profound difference” in the community.

The Dec. 6 ceremony was capped with remarks from the five couples selected to live in the single-storey homes at 1140 Guthrie Dr. East.

“I never thought this could happen to us. We are so happy,” said Pat Seguin, speaking with husband Jack Pettit.

“Every volunteer who helped and comes by this way, stop in.

“There will always be someone at home to welcome you.”

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