When Peter Aussenegg, his partner Cara Gosse and their children, Jackson, 10, Annabelle, 9 and Felix, 4, walked up to their new four-bedroom duplex in North Saanich, a large novelty key reading Welcome leaned up against the building.
It did not quite fit into the front door, but the symbolism was not lost as the family of five opened a new chapter in their lives as the first of 10 new home-owning families moving into Habitat for Humanity Victoria’s Bakerview Project. (Six families moved into their homes April 21 with four more families moving in over the next few months).
A tour of the new home was much to the liking of the family, and the children could soon be heard playing and running across the floor of the second level where each of them will have a separate room, a significant improvement from one recent home, a two-bedroom basement suite, with one room reserved for play and home-schooling.
“I think it’s amazing to have my own room, and not to have share space with my brothers,” said Annabella, who has already explored some of the home’s more hidden spaces.
Earlier, her parents reflected on what their new home means for their future.
The children may not realize it yet, but this new home lifts a massive burden off them, said Cara. “It’s going to have a profound impact on them,” she said. “It means that they can put their roots down and build those connections in their community without the worry of having to lose that.”
The home means security, said Peter. “They will always have a place to call home and we won’t have to worry about moving.”
The Habitat for Humanity home gives the family something that has become increasingly unaffordable in Greater Victoria: homeownership with the accompanying sense of community belonging. “It gives us a leg up being able to have our own home at a price we can afford,” said Cara.
Yolanda Meijer, chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity Victoria, hopes that the arrival of the inaugural family in the North Saanich project heralds the start of more projects like it on the Saanich Peninsula.
“I hope that once all the landscaping is done and they (the public) really see how nice it is, that the community is really going to rally around these kinds of projects and understand that it is not so different and so transformative that it loses what people love about North Saanich,” she said.
As more and more families move in, the area (just south off Sidney and off Lochside Drive) will become a “wonderful community, a little hub of young families, children playing together, gathering in places,” said Meijer. “It’s a real validation of years of working with council and none of it would have happened without the developers donating the land as part of their project (and) the municipality requiring that there be affordable housing.”
The project, which received North Saanich’s approval in the late summer of 2018, sees Habitat for Humanity partner with a private developer as part of a larger 27-unit housing development that has seen local developers Brian Berglund and John Berglund donate a piece of land valued at $1.2 million.
Habitat for Humanity Victoria is now looking to bring this three-legged model of affordable housing to other parts of the Peninsula. “We are looking at one right now, possibly in Sidney,” she said. “We are just at the very beginning phase of discussion. It’s land that is currently not zoned for residential, so it would need to go through rezoning.”
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