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Habitat for Humanity seeks support for two new builds

Habitat for Humanity Guelph Wellington has launched its community bonds program to help fund the purchase of land in Guelph and Fergus

Some new Habitat for Humanity housing is coming to Guelph and Fergus.

But while plans for the two projects are in various stages and aren't set in stone, the local chapter of the organization is launching its community bonds program as they seek investment from the community.

Officials made the announcement Thursday afternoon at an open house at the Wellington County Museum and Archives in Fergus.

"We're modelling (the community bonds program) after work that 10 Carden has done in Guelph," said Ryan Deska, director of community engagement and development with Habitat for Humanity Guelph Wellington.

He cited the bond program 10C launched about five years ago to renovate their location at 42 Carden St., the former Acker's Furniture building across from city hall. Deska said 10C is working with them to help roll out the community bonds.

With the program, they're looking to raise the financial capital required to purchase the properties, and will also have to go through the same steps any developer has to go through.

"We're facing the same challenges that everyone is in the housing market right now," Deska said.

"Land is expensive and hard to come by. We're not immune to the challenges in the housing market, as everyone else is experiencing."

Community bonds, he said, are a social financing, social impact tool for raising money for various not-for-profit organizations.

It earns interest and will provide a rate of return over a fixed term, is separate from donations and fundraising and targets people who want to create a social impact and make a difference.

"We believe that it's an opportunity for the community to, for this project, to be built by the community for the community," Deska said.

They have released the locations of the two properties in question, so those who are investing in the community bonds know where the money is going.

First up in Guelph, Habitat for Humanity has closed on 317 Speedvale Ave. E. – on the corner of Speedvale and Manhattan Court – which will be turned into about 32 residential units (14 habitat units, 18 market units).

But there's no rush on that property at this time, Deska said.

"That property has an existing commercial building space, and we have full intention of keeping those folks there," he said. "We're not moving towards any immediate building plans at the site, probably for a couple years, anyway."

This comes after they recently completed their Cityview Village project, in which affordable home ownership opportunities were provided to 22 families.

In Fergus, they're looking at a property at 465 Garafraxa St. W., but the sale has yet to close and remains in the due diligence phase.

"We're hopeful that on Garafraxa Street, that it's a really central location to Elora, to Fergus and within Wellington County as well," Deska said. "It's sort of a hub that serves some of the surrounding rural communities, and it's something that we believe is important."

They're looking at building about 30 to 35 units in stacked townhomes, with construction beginning next July if all goes according to plan.

"We're looking at a mixture of habitat sales and market sales. It's roughly two thirds habitat families and one third market units for this project," he said, adding those details are subject to change with design plans not finished yet with other things in the works.

That would equal out to about 20 habitat homes, and the rest would be market units.

However, there are still some things to work out before they can make an official announcement about the project itself.

"We're working through the due diligence on that right now," Deska said. "We've been working with our own planning teams, and with our own consultants to make sure that everything is good to go to start building.

"We're very close, but there's still some conversations that need to happen around the purchase of the land."

Deska said if the property purchase does fall through, a new build in Fergus will remain in their future plans.

"We are committed to a project in Fergus," he said. "We're hopeful that things work out with the vendor on the property there."

Anyone looking for more information or to purchase a community bond can visit the local Habitat website.


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Mark Pare

About the Author: Mark Pare

Originally from Timmins, ON, Mark is a longtime journalist and broadcaster, who has worked in several Ontario markets.
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