TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN
Virgil Escalera cuts the ribbon to his family's new STEPP Home on Rosser Avenue East alongside his children Venice, Briannia and Josh as well as his wife Joy during a ceremony to mark the opening of the fourth STEPP Home on Tuesday.
Virgil and Joy Escalera always felt like they were taking one step forward and two steps backward.
Trapped in a tight housing climate, the Filipino couple, who have three children, couldn’t shuck the rental market where they were paying $950 per month, plus utilities.
That all changed yesterday, when the family was handed the keys to their very own home on Rosser Avenue East as part of the Solutions to End Poverty Permanently (STEPP) Affordable Home Ownership Program.
"We’re overwhelmed," Joy said.
"It’s exciting to move in and settle down and it’s a new step in our life," added Virgil from the family’s new deck in their backyard, which faces the railroad tracks.
Virgil, who works for Investors Group, said the mortgage on the home will be less than what they were paying in rent for an apartment the family had outgrown.
"We did our homework," he said.
It will also provide 16-year-old Josh, 12-year-old Venice and Briannia, 2, some green space to run around and play.
They’re all keen to move into their new three-bedroom, two-bathroom home.
"It was too tight for us in an apartment," said Joy, who works for Westman Immigrant Services. "And we couldn’t afford a bigger apartment because the rent is too high. This is the only chance for us to own a home because we don’t have the money for a down payment. It would take us years to save up for that, so we tried our luck again and were accepted."
It was a collaborative effort from a handful of organizations in the city that made it possible, according to Canadian Mental Health Association director Glen Kruck.
From the land, which was donated by the city, to the kitchen cabinets, which were fabricated by inmates at the Brandon Correctional Centre, every group worked to lower the price of the home.
The Brandon Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation and builders through the Brandon Energy Efficiency Program were also vital.
Apprentices who worked on the home stood in the crowd to watch the new family achieve a lifelong goal of owning a home.
"This house isn’t just affordable to own, this house is actually affordable to live in," BEEP project manager George McLeod said. "We were able to heat the entire house in the winter time during construction with a single industrial heater. You could heat this home with a candle if the doors are shut."
Crocus Plains Regional Secondary School students designed the home while Crocus Credit Union provided the financing.
The provincial and federal government also stepped up with grants, which helped lower the cost of the home.
Any money raised through private donations are also used to lower the mortgage, but if the home is ever sold, those funds come back to the agency to ensure more families can benefit from the program.
"It doesn’t get used for one home — it gets used for home after home after home," Kruck said.
» Twitter: @CharlesTweed
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 27, 2014