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Habitat for Humanity thrives despite challenges of real estate market – The Sheridan Press

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SHERIDAN — Carla Trier moved into her house, constructed by Habitat for Humanity of the Eastern Bighorns, on March 3, 2020. A week later, she was working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trier was moving out of an apartment that was cold and moldy and recovering from an abdominal hysterectomy while operating a local nonprofit in the middle of a pandemic. During this time of chaos, the home was — and continues to be —  “a nice refuge for me,” Trier said.

“It was a huge blessing to me, to be in a safe place that was comfortable and new with nothing going wrong,” Trier said. “There is just huge value in it.”

Now more than ever, Habitat has received inquiries from people like Trier in need of a safe, affordable place to live, according to Executive Director Christine Dietrich. The work of the organization is continuing at a steady clip, but the nonprofit is also facing a barrage of challenges related to a low supply of available lots and high demand for new construction.

The pandemic has brought a “consistent flow” of new residents to Sheridan from Colorado and the West Coast, according to Bruce Garber, broker with and owner of Century 21 BHJ Realty. This has led to a high demand for housing, which has driven up local real estate prices and increased local construction. The high demand for construction materials —  coupled with a low supply due to a shutdown of factories in the early days of the pandemic  — has increased construction materials costs substantially.

In other words, it has never been more expensive to construct a house, Dietrich said, and for Habitat, that means more fundraising than ever before.

“At Habitat, anything beyond what is affordable for our partner families is what we have to fundraise for each house,” Dietrich said. “As that gap continues to get bigger, it puts more pressure on me to cover that difference. At a certain point, it’s not sustainable anymore, and we have to make hard decisions. The first and most practical one is to slow down production, but that’s also the last one we want to do. Our goal is to ramp up production, not scale it down.”

Habitat for Humanity of the Eastern Bighorns addresses the need for affordable housing by providing home ownership opportunities for Sheridan families in need. The organization serves families whose income is between 30% and 60% of the current median income, as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for Wyoming.

Habitat currently constructs three houses a year, Dietrich said. Currently, 95% of the loans they originate for those houses have to be subsidized by Habitat dollars in some shape or form with the organization raising an average of $80,000 per house.

“So we’re looking at around $240,000 a year just to cover the subsidy,” Dietrich said. “That doesn’t include operational expenses or ReStore expenses or any of our other programs. Just the subsidy.”

Habitat covers these expenses through fundraising efforts and, while events like the recent Wolf Creek Wrangle help, the bulk of the dollars come from private individuals and businesses.

Dietrich thanked the community for “carrying Habitat through the last two years of COVID” but also noted Habitat wasn’t the only nonprofit needing additional help, which has put a strain on private giving.

“We have seen long-time donors not make a gift this year, but we have also recruited new ones,” Dietrich said. “We just have to be proactive.”

The organization has to be similarly proactive when finding lots to build on, according to board member Bob Utter. Utter, a longtime realtor who retired at the beginning of the COVID pandemic, said he has never seen lots in as high demand as they are now, which has required Habitat to change its tactics a bit.

“As a general rule, a nonprofit does not compete well in the open market,” Utter said. “And now we find ourselves in a very competitive market where a lot will sell almost immediately. So I’ve taken it on myself to look for other properties and contact people directly, and that’s worked well for us.”

Most recently, Habitat purchased eight lots in Ranchester for future development, Utter said. Habitat is also developing properties at the Trailside and Poplar Grove subdivisions in Sheridan.

In addition to increased construction costs and lower availability of lots, the organization is also facing supply chain issues — particularly for appliances — that are delaying construction, Dietrich said.

“In construction, time is money, and the faster I can turn around a house build, the faster I can put a homeowner into it,” Dietrich said. “But the supply chain issues are slowing down our timeline to build a home, which impacts our ability to host volunteers because we don’t know when the supplies will arrive. We’re not the only business seeing that, but it definitely impacts us.”

One thing that is not in short supply is aid from the community, both financially and in volunteer hours, Dietrich said. And that support is key to the organization’s continued success, Utter said.

“Be a Habitat supporter,” Utter said. “That could mean participating in fundraisers or working with Habitat on acquisition of land or volunteering for builds to keep our cost of construction down. Every act of generosity matters, now more than ever.”

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These Popular Fall Renovations Are Getting Done In Canada This Year

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The weather in Canada can be unpredictable, so homeowners often wait for late spring or summer to do their home renovations. They want to take advantage of the warmer weather, especially on outdoor projects.

But contractors continue to work long after the summer ends. Demand for renos can surge in the fall as homeowners try to get things done before the harsh winter weather sets in.

Even moderate renovations to your home can help increase the value when selling. Having a newly renovated house and working with a great real estate agent in Toronto can help get you the best return on your property.

But what renovations are Canadians getting done in the fall?

 

Heated Flooring

The popularity of carpet has dwindled in the last twenty years, as people often favour the sleek style of hardwood and tile flooring. While these floors look beautiful, they can have an unexpected drawback; They’re cold. This is why heated flooring has become one of the most popular “invisible” renovations in modern Canadian homes. Installing underfloor heating helps provide even heat through your floors, so stepping out of bed on a cold morning won’t be so unpleasant. These floors can be installed anywhere in the house, from bathrooms to bedrooms.

Keeping the Heat in

Insulation is another popular renovation in the fall. Upgrading old insulation is not only food for keeping your house toasty on the cooler nights, but it also helps reduce mould, rot, and other unpleasantries that lurk behind the walls. Fall is a popular time to get these renovations done because the temperatures have not yet dropped below freezing, meaning you won’t have to worry about your house letting in too much cold during its renovation period.

For the same reasons, this is also an excellent time to get your doors and windows professionally replaced for more energy-efficient models, as nobody wants a gaping hole in their wall in the middle of winter– or the heat of summer.

Company is Coming

The winter months are full of social occasions, from Thanksgiving to holiday parties. These social occasions mean entertaining guests that are coming over to your home. Fall is an ideal time to get your home renovations well underway before they arrive. These guest-centred renovations usually include bathrooms, which can be particularly good to get finished before the ground starts to freeze and plumbing is harder to access.

Kitchen upgrades are another popular choice to get done, as entertaining guests means having a space to do so and cooking for them. Renovations to make a more ideal and open concept kitchen, as well as the addition of islands peak during this time.

Roof Repair

Have you ever passed people working on a roof in the middle of the summer and wondered how they’re surviving the heat? The striking heat of the summer can make roof work unpleasant, but waiting until winter is dangerous, especially in icy conditions. Fall is the perfect time to get any roof maintenance done before the snow falls and damages your home.

Credit: HeungSoon via Pixabay

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FORT MAC LRA Approves Interim Plan for TD JAKES Real Estate Ventures Group – KPVI News 6

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FORT MAC LRA Approves Interim Plan for TD JAKES Real Estate Ventures Group  KPVI News 6



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Could New Zealand's radical new housing law help Canada curb its skyrocketing real estate prices? – National Post

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New Zealand is currently plagued by a real estate market that is even more unaffordable than Canada’s

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A radical new law intended to reduce New Zealand’s infamous housing crunch could well be a model for how Canada could curb its ever-skyrocketing real estate prices, according to experts contacted by the National Post.

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This week, in a rare bipartisan action, the New Zealand government introduced measures to quash “overly restrictive planning rules” that hinder development in urban cores.

New Zealanders may now develop up to 50 per cent of their land — and build up to three storeys — without requiring consent from municipal authorities. The reforms also unleash landowners to build up to three homes per lot in areas that previously restricted those lots to one or two homes.

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While the measures do not mandate development of existing homes, they mean that New Zealanders now have much more freedom to build on their land without butting up against municipal planning laws. A similar law applied to Vancouver and Toronto, for instance, would automatically free builders from the need to seek local approval for a laneway house.

A government-commissioned analysis by Pricewaterhouse Coopers has estimated that the new measures will spur a building boom expected to add between 48,200 and 105,500 new units of housing in New Zealand by the end of the decade.

“I think reforms like this would likely help increase Canadian housing stock quite a bit,” Nathanael Lauster, a housing density researcher at the University of British Columbia, told the Post.

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Lauster helped created the Metro Vancouver Zoning Project , an effort to meticulously document zoning laws in Canada’s third largest city. What the project has revealed is that the vast majority of land in Vancouver is zoned for single family homes, effectively making densification illegal in much of Canada’s most unaffordable real estate market.

A screenshot of the Metro Vancouver Zoning Project. Every patch of yellow indicates where it’s illegal to build anything except a detached home or duplex.
A screenshot of the Metro Vancouver Zoning Project. Every patch of yellow indicates where it’s illegal to build anything except a detached home or duplex. Photo by Metro Vancouver Housing Project

In an extensive analysis of New Zealand’s new housing reforms, Lauster called them a “welcome new model” for stripping “exclusionary” powers from the hands of local governments, which disproportionately favour the interests of existing homeowners. “It’s relatively easy for municipal politics to become captured by those most resistant to change and greater inclusion,” he wrote.

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New Zealand’s new measures were supported both by its Labour Party government and its conservative National Party opposition. Tellingly, the policy’s official launch was attended by National Party Leader Judith Collins.

“National supports this policy because it focuses on supply. Rather than making life harder for property owners, this policy tells them that you have the right to build,” Collins told a Tuesday press conference .

The National Party leader also struck out at Kiwis who opposed the law on the grounds that it would strip communities of their “character.” “Our communities lose their character when people can’t afford to own their own home,” she said.

New Zealand is currently plagued by a real estate market that is even more unaffordable than Canada’s. The gap between New Zealand’s average incomes and its average real estate cost is currently among the highest in the OECD .

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Notably, the problem continues to grow despite the fact that New Zealand maintains strict controls on foreign ownership. In 2018, the country banned non-residents from purchasing pre-existing New Zealand real estate, although foreigners are given limited reign to purchase new builds.

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Canada’s already overheated real estate market is on a fast track to match New Zealand for unaffordability. In just the last year, average Canadian home prices soared by an incredible 21.4 per cent .

The singular reason for this is lack of supply. Canada has the lowest number of housing units per capita than any other country in the G7, a ratio that is only getting worse as lacklustre housing development is met with massive population growth.

In Canada, any law to defang municipal zoning laws would need to come from the provinces. With New Zealand having a population of only five million, its national government often makes decisions that would be considered regional issues in Canada.

However, there is strong precedent to show that Canadian provinces have relatively free reign to steamroll municipal laws whenever they want to.

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One of the starkest recent examples was when the province of Ontario abruptly cut the size of Toronto City Council in half.

While the City of Toronto took the issue to court framing it as an undemocratic coup, just this month the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Ontario acted constitutionally.

In the recent Canadian federal election, all three major parties debuted housing plans that mostly skirted around the issue of municipal barriers to development. The Conservatives proposed tying federal transit funding to a city’s willingness to densify, but there were no blunt New Zealand-style promises to override onerous local zoning laws

“If there was a blanket up-zoning of land in Canadian metropolitan areas, it would lead to an increase in the housing stock,” said Steve Lafleur, an analyst specializing in housing affordability at the Fraser Institute.

The libertarian-minded Fraser Institute isn’t one to advocate stricter government control of an economic sector, and Lafleur said that provincial “micromanaging” of local zoning would not be ideal. Nevertheless, he said, “given immense demand for housing, it is impossible to believe that there would not be a boom … if denser housing were allowed.”

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