Cree mother celebrates chance to own, build first home as Manitoba orgs get cash for affordable housing

Millions coming to non-profits to help families find places to live

Habitat for Humanity Manitoba and a Winnipeg family violence prevention centre are getting a funding boost to the tune of $3.6 million in a joint effort from both provincial and federal governments to help build affordable housing in Winnipeg for low-income and vulnerable families.

The investments were announced at a special event in Winnipeg on Thursday morning.

The funding is part of the federally developed National Housing Strategy, an initiative to reduce homelessness and improve the affordability, availability and quality of housing for people in need.

While clouds and rain cut the event short, the sun was shining for Dawn-Marie Kerr.

The Cree mother is preparing to own her first home with help from Habitat for Humanity Manitoba. Making the moment even more special is that fact that she is also building her home with her own two hands.

“It’s amazing,” an emotional Kerr told APTN News. “I’m a part of not only changing my life but my children’s’ life and their children’s life to come…not only are we achieving owning homes but we’re being a part of building it as well.”

Kerr started out as a volunteer with the non-profit organization at the suggestion of a family member. She joined as a way to give back to her community but didn’t expect that same community would give back to her in the end.

Kerr recalled staff at Habitat for Humanity suggesting she apply for housing through the organization.

“At this point in my life I didn’t think it was something that I could achieve,” she said.

Habitat for Humanity Manitoba is receiving $3 million over three years to support its home-building program. The organization will construct up to 60 new affordable homes.

From left to right: Dawn-Marie Kerr, daughter Allissa Kerr, Sandy Hopkins CEO Habitat for Humanity Manitoba, Families Minister Heather Stefanson, Dana Riccio-Arabe executive director Wahbung Abinoonjiiag Inc., Liberal MP Terry Duguid. Photo courtesy: Crystal Hardy

“Home ownership is the foundation to financial security for most families in society,” said Sandy Hopkins, chief executive officer for Habitat for Humanity Manitoba.

Eligible families are expected to complete 500 hours of volunteer work including 100 hours of helping with the construction of their home.

The homes are sold at fair market value, without a down payment and with a no-interest mortgage. The mortgage payment is renewed annually and is based on the family’s gross income, according to a release.

Wahbung Abinoonjiiag Inc. is the second group to receive money in the amount of $635,000.

The Winnipeg-based Indigenous organization is a domestic violence prevention centre for children and their families.

The funding will go toward transitional housing for vulnerable families.

“Together we can not only envision but actively work toward a place and a time where children and their families can live free of violence and unrestrained by the impacts of violence,” said Dana Riccio-Arabe, executive director for the centre.

The money will toward the develop of new affordable housing for up to 24 vulnerable families that are at risk of homelessness or who have experienced family violence.