Char­ity group wants to build in south end, not the Flats

Char­i­ta­ble home­builders say de­sired lo­ca­tion of­fers bet­ter ac­cess to ameni­ties

Medicine Hat News - - FRONT PAGE - COLLIN GAL­LANT cgal­lant@medicine­hat­ Twit­ter: CollinGal­lant

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.

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