Providing attainable housing in West Kelowna

Those who have never quite been able to afford their own home may just be in luck.

Those who have never quite been able to afford their own home may just be in luck.

Project Build III, the newest initiative of the Project Build Society, will help people who are on the cusp of success get into new homes that are part of the Elkridge development in West Kelowna.

“We’re targeting people who would otherwise not be able to afford the down payments,” said Leanne Hammond Komori, executive director of the Central Okanagan Foundation.

“Examples would be working families or couples who, for whatever reason, have not been able to save enough for a down payment. They may have student loans or they may be in debt, but it’s what we would call ‘good debt.’”

Project Build III provides non-repayable grants to help hardworking families tackle the down payment and get out of renting and into owning.

Hammond Komori said that one prerequisite is that applicants must be able to qualify for a mortgage.

“Generally, a lot of working couples and young families are paying the same (on rent) as they would pay for a mortgage. We know they have the capacity to pay, they’re just short on the down payment.”

Although working families are among the most common applicants for Project Build III, Hammond Komori clarified that all applicants are considered.

“There are some people who are (at the) retirement age, who are also still renting and have never been able to own. We’d still look at that. We’ve got quite a broad base of stories. It’s really their story that captures our attention, and then it’s their ability to qualify.”

The Central Okanagan Foundation’s web site has a special projects section—on the left hand side of the home page—where candidates can go to get an application form for the project grants.

The funds are provided by private donors—businesses, contractors and various people who are involved in trying to improve the housing situation in the valley.

“The money is not from the Central Okanagan Foundation, it is from the Project Build Society. We help facilitate the process. We don’t want the public thinking that we’re taking money from our granting pool, which is supposed to be for charities, and giving it to individuals.”

Project Build started off three years ago as a Central Okanagan Foundation fundraiser.

“We built a home in Lake Country and then sold it and put the money into the endowment fund for the community,” explained Hammond Komori.

“The same group of people that were involved in that build, the developer, the real estate agent and all the various trades people that had volunteered for that, wanted to focus on getting people into homes.

“A few of them got together and formed the Project Build Society. It’s a provincial society, not a registered charity, that is looking to improve the housing situation in the Central Okanagan.”

After the initial Project Build, she said Project Build II was founded by Gino Dal Ponte, buyers’ agent and team leader of The Property Source Group. “He was noticing that a lot of young couples and families that were starting to look for homes just didn’t have enough for the down payment to bring their mortgage payment down to a reasonable amount.”

Project Build II, which is an ongoing project with homes still available, is located at the Sageglenn development in Lake Country. Applications for Project Build II grants are still being accepted.

“The Project Build Society is trying to target different areas and different price points in the Central Okanagan. It’s what we’re calling attainable housing, as opposed to affordable housing. It’s still not cheap; it’s quality housing. It’s just helping people get over that bump.”

The project has benefits for the local economy as well, Hammond Komori added.

“It’s fabulous because it gets families into homes, which makes them a part of the tax base. All the trades people working on the project are contributing and they are also working more steadily than they would without it because they’re building two or three homes at a time, as opposed to one-offs.”

The initial plan for Project Build III is to start off with 20 homes, however, Hammond Komori said that the Project Build Society has the capacity to go up to 80 homes.

And she notes the community reaction has been incredibly positive.

“People are confused. They’re thinking this is too good to be true. They’re just delighted that something like this is happening.”

Hammond Komori said that future Project Build initiatives aren’t out of the question. “It depends on developers or people coming forward wanting to start a project. We would want to look at ones that are in different areas of the community. Maybe Rutland or downtown Kelowna is next. Who knows?”



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