Charity group wants to build in south end, not the Flats
Charitable homebuilders say desired location offers better access to amenities
Habitat for Humanity is preparing to build another residence in Medicine Hat, but it has specifically finalized a site for a planned duplex outside the Flats so its owners can be closer to amenities and shopping in Southlands area.
A council committee is recommending a request to provide a 50 per cent discount for a city lot in that deep south community. Administrators warn such a reduction would put actual cost on the city’s land office and again run contrary to policy on land.
Without the discount though, officials with the group say, its affordable housing efforts will be pushed back.
“It would delay us because we would need to raise additional funds,” said John Digman, chair of the local Habitat chapter, at the city’s development committee meeting Sept. 6. “We will build more houses in Medicine Hat and we’d like to do it in partnership with the city.”
Committee members voted to send the issue to a full council meeting for approval on Sept. 18.
“It’s a chance to show a charitable impulse and it’s an important one,” said vicechair Coun. Les Pearson.
Coun. Julie Friesen said the city has been a “long time supporter” of the group, and the reduction should be considered.
The group builds homes and provides zero-down, nointerest mortgages to qualifying low-income families that provide volunteer hours toward the build or related community work.
Over 20 years in Medicine Hat, they have built 10 houses for the benefit of 13 families. All were located in the central Flats community where the city typically had surplus land and a policy to promote new construction in the older community.
Those lots were handed over at no cost, but during recent negotiations, Habitat for Humanity instead requested south-end property.
“We believe in being as green as possible,” said Digman. “Shopping, public transportation, employment; it’s all right there.”
Land officials found a potential site, but referred the issue of price to councillors.
The discount is based on a decision last year when council approved a straight 50 per cent discount to the Kinsmen Club, which was negotiating for a Home Lotto location. They said poor sales in recent years had threatened the viability of the annual giveaway fundraiser, and council agreed to the reduction.
“At the time it was specifically said that it wasn’t a precedent,” said Heggelund. “We want to recover at least the cost of (servicing and developing) the lot, so we’re not cash out of pocket at the land department.
Land department officials say the site in question is one of three duplex sites in a row that they have had trouble selling. The hope is that new construction activity could create interest in the others.
Digman said the structure would be modern, but not extravagant — each side would measure about 1,100square-feet — and would blend in well with the community.
“At the end of the day, it’s just another house that someone is paying a mortgage on and they own and they’re another part of the community,” he said.