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The fight against homelessness is big news after a natural disaster, especially one on the scale of devastation that has hit the Southern United States. It's the day-to-day battle against homelessness and the small hard-won victories that rarely hit the headlines. Canadians should loudly celebrate every step towards a fully-sheltered population and let each home ownership success serve as a catalyst for duplication of its results across the country.

The recent grand opening of Wessex Place, an affordable housing project in Regina, Saskatchewan, is one of many virtually-overlooked anti-homelessness programs worth duplicating. Wessex Place is a 36-unit project on the east-side of Regina. At the launch, twelve units were occupied, 19 more were committed and construction was underway on the remaining units.

The opening of Wessex Place also celebrated the launch of the Homeownership Option of Saskatchewan's HomeFirst Centenary Affordable Housing Program (CAHP), an intergovernmental initiative to increase the supply of affordable dwellings in Saskatchewan. Resulting projects may involve new construction, conversion of nonresidential buildings, or acquisition and renovation of existing rental housing that is at risk of being lost from the market. Homes may be single-family dwellings, semi-detached, duplexes, condominiums, or apartment-style or row housing.

Shared local responsibility, backed by the federal government, is the key to success. The Wessex Project is the result of the hard work of many individuals and a local partnership between these organizations:

  • Regina Affordable New Home Foundation is a registered nonprofit corporation created by the Homebuilders Association to address the need for affordable housing in Regina.
  • Terra Developments, contracted by the Foundation to provide management services that would take the project through to completion, serves as the entry point for applying families.
  • B>North Ridge Development Corporation was selected by the Foundation to be the general contractor and build the 36 homes.
  • City of Regina provided support and applied the five-year tax abatement policy so families will find their new home even more affordable.

CAHP-Homeownership is a program funded by: (1) the federal government through Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation; (2) the Government of Saskatchewan through Saskatchewan Housing Corporation (SHC); and, (3) local municipal governments. Together the federal and provincial governments will contribute up to C$700,000 in forgivable loans to new homeowners under CAHP. This campaign for affordable home ownership will receive the C$66 million earmarked for use until 2008 when the C$33 million in federal funding allocated for CAHP is matched by the province, municipalities and other parties.

Eligible applicants may receive a forgivable loan of up to C$19,500, based on household income and unit price, upon approval by SHC and a private mortgage lender. If the loan recipient stays in the home for 10 years, the equity loan will be forgiven in full. Families with dependents, including single parent households, and people with disabilities that affect their housing needs are eligible. Applicants are required to participate in homeowner education to ensure their long-term success as property owners. They learn how to qualify for a mortgage and are taught the essentials of money management, credit, the home-buying process, and home maintenance and repair.

"As a young family just beginning our careers, we hadn't planned on home ownership for as long as 10 years," said one new Wessex Place homeowner. "Then this opportunity came along and made it possible to own our home much sooner."

Isn't that worth a headline?

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