Hastings County Backs Habitat

Habitat for Humanity’s local executive director, Bob Clute, centre, accepts a cheque from Hastings County officials at the county office in Belleville Wednesday. With him from left are Warden Rick Phillips, Quinte West Mayor Jim Harrison, Habitat’s Bojanna Lough and county social services committee chairman Garnet Thompson.

A new partnership between Hastings County and Habitat for Humanity is giving the charity a reliable source of funding to house area families. Habitat organizes the construction of homes for low-income families as a way to break the cycle of poverty. Staff of Habitat for Humanity Prince Edward-Hastings first joined forces with the county in January 2014.

County council approved spending $50,000 in each of the next five years to aid Habitat; the county also supported the building of a home in Belleville. It’s part of the county’s 10-year housing and homelessness plan. County Warden Rick Phillips and social services committee chairman Garnet Thompson on Wednesday presented a cheque for the first $17,000 to Habitat executive director Bob Clute. “This partnership gives Hastings County the opportunity to maximize the investment in affordable housing funding from the province and improve the lives of people in our communities,” Phillips said.

The county’s assistant manager of affordable housing, Michelle Ogden, said the county’s funding will cover the down payment for Habitat homes – 10 per cent of the total cost. Habitat’s Bob Clute said improving the lives of families, especially their children, “all starts with a home. “There’s nothing greater than a person helping a neighbour,” said Clute. Habitat has completed two homes in Trenton and two more are under construction on Belleville’s Golfdale Road, said Bojanna Lough, the charity’s community relations and fund development co-ordinator. Land for three homes is now available in Bancroft and work on one will begin in 2016. Staff hope to start work next year on a further three, Lough and Clute said. The next Trenton home will be built on land donated by the City of Quinte West. Quinte West Mayor Jim Harrison endorsed that work and said he’s seen families’ gratitude. “When you see them take the keys is when you really realize how much has been accomplished by so few,” said. The $250,000 is part of the $990,000 budgeted by county council for its home ownership down payment program.

Starting next year the program will be helping families – those not part of the Habitat program – with their down payments. Ogden said the county ran a similar program three years ago, helping 85 families. “Our wait list for social housing is around 1,600,” she said. Some of the current occupants in the county’s social housing are now paying market-level rent because their finances have improved since moving into those units, Ogden said. The down-payment program is expected to help them become homeowners. “We’re hoping it’s going to free up some of our affordable housing stock” for new renters, she added. Clute said Hastings County’s approach to housing and homelessness is progressive. “They get it,” he said. “Hastings County has been a leader in the program of affordable housing.” He said partnerships with counties and municipalities are crucial to Habitat’s work.

For more information, visit www.habitatpeh.org or call 613-962-7526.

Luke Hendry/The Intelligencer