A duplex on Cowichan Lake Road won’t just be a house for two local families, it’ll be a home — and an affordable one at that.
On Tuesday afternoon, future Habitat homeowner Tammy Isaachsen joined Habitat for Humanity Mid Vancouver Island executive director Marcel Aubin, North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring, and other dignitaries to break ground on the organization’s first-ever Cowichan build.
It was a momentous occasion for all involved.
“It’s very exciting,” Isaachsen said. “I feel really appreciative. It’s an opportunity I didn’t think would happen for me. Without Habitat for Humanity I probably wouldn’t be able to purchase a home on my own so it’s just really exciting for me and my children.”
Isaachsen said her son has a genetic condition that results in him being short statured and being able to work with the Habitat build team to make it more accessible for him is “amazing.”
But most of all she and her two children are just thrilled at the thought of having their own space.
“Right now we rent the top floor of a house. It’ll be nice to have our own space, have a little more room, a storage room, a garage… Just some simple things like that I’m looking forward to,” she said.
Part of home ownership through Habitat for Humanity is putting in 500 hours of sweat equity and Isaachsen is well on her way to completing that task, with her volunteer efforts at the Duncan Re-Store and her planned work on the build site.
“Anything I can do to help out, I’ll definitely be there,” she said.
Coincidentally, Isaachsen’s mother Joan spent 40 years working at Griffith’s plumbing — the very same building the Re-Store now occupies.
“This is an exciting day,” Aubin said. “We are very honoured that this is our first build here.”
“This has been a long time coming for this area and we are very grateful for the ongoing support and encouragement of the local community. That so many local businesses and contractors have jumped at the opportunity to get involved in this build with us is heart-warming and a great demonstration that the Cowichan community really cares about affordable housing.”
Mayor Siebring noted there’s a lot of talk around affordability in housing these days.
“We have demand all the way from no barrier housing for homeless folks all the way up to market affordability. This model that Habitat for Humanity has has proven time and again to be a model that works,” Siebring said. “I’m really glad to hear that Habitat is here and also in Duncan and is starting to grow. It’s not just up to government, it’s not just up to the politicians. The community has to step up and get involved.”
Speaking on behalf of MLA Sonia Furstenau, Maeve Maguire said “Everything Sonia works for is building more resilient communities and I think there’s nothing more resilient than a community building a house for a community member.”
Build manager Les Orcutt is the guy that will oversee construction. He hopes to have the family moved in by December. The downtown Duncan project is expected to get underway in the new year.
“We use volunteers where we can and that’s why it can take longer to get the work done,” he explained.
Jessie Chalmers from Habitat MVI’s board of directors said being Nanaimo-based has meant many builds in that region of mid-Vancouver Island but is thrilled they’re expanding their reach.
“This is the first time that we’ve been able to get into the Cowichan Valley. We have done a unit in Ladysmith before and in Parksville but because we are mid-Vancouver Island we felt it was important to start serving the whole region,” Chalmers said. “We are excited to get this project done and then move on to a sixplex down on Jubilee Street.”