BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN
Elena and Mario Ceron stand inside their STEPP home on Rosser Avenue. Mario says anything that can be done to make homes more accessible would be helpful to families new to the area.
Homeowner applications for Brandon’s third Solutions to End Poverty Permanently (STEPP) home are now being accepted until Feb. 3 to give more residents time to apply, said Canadian Mental Health Association regional director Glen Kruck.
The application deadline for the 405 Rosser Ave. East home was extended from Jan. 13 to Feb. 3. A third open house will also take place this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
"We just want to make sure that everyone has a crack at it," Kruck said. "We do have applicants now, but we want to make sure that everyone has a crack at this house."
About 10 applications have been received so far.
This is the third STEPP house built in partnership with the City of Brandon, Province of Manitoba, Canadian Mental Health Association Westman Region, Brandon Neighbourhood Renewal Association and the Brandon Energy Efficiency Program (BEEP).
STEPP gives low-income families the opportunity to become first-time homeowners by eliminating common barriers, including high market prices and the ability to save for a minimum down payment.
Mario Ceron, his wife Elena and their three children moved into STEPP’s second completed home in June 2013, and Mario said everything has been going great so far.
"Everything’s been fine," Mario said. "We like it very much here, just not winter time."
Mario moved to Brandon from El Salvador in 2005 after accepting a job at Maple Leaf. The rest of his family followed in 2009.
Mario said the housing program gave his family a chance to own the home they plan on living in for at least the next 15 years. He hopes other families will get the same opportunity.
"I think it would be a good idea if this project could keep going and give a chance to somebody else to get a house this way," he said.
Lowered STEPP home purchase prices are made possible by donated residential lots by the City of Brandon, a $60,000 provincial grant as well as grants from other sources and 90 per cent of the construction labour is provided through BEEP as an employment training site.
All work is done under the supervision of an on-site journeyman carpenter and the province pays a percentage of the wages.
Arrangements are also made with local financial institutions to enable first-time homebuyers to qualify for a mortgage without having to save for a down payment. The financial institution registers a first mortgage on the property at 100 per cent of the value and then lends out at approximately 70 per cent. Once purchased, the homes are under a one-year warranty and only minor problems have been reported from the first two homebuyers so far, Kruck said.
The third STEPP home is identical to the other two completed in the summer, he added. It’s a bungalow with a fully finished basement, three bedrooms, two full bathrooms, all new appliances and an outdoor shed in the backyard. The home’s appraised value is $242,500, but the purchase price is set at $168,500, saving the future homeowners $74,000. Although this particular home is almost $20,000 more than the other two because the land had to be built up to appropriate elevation levels, "it’s still an incredibly good deal," Kruck said.
A fourth STEPP home located at 503 Rosser Ave. East should be completed sometime next month with an open house to follow shortly after he added.
As for future projects, Kruck said the biggest holdup right now is acquiring land.
"The city is talking about making some land available for people to build affordable housing on," he said. "We want to be one of the agencies applying for more units."
Depending on the size of land STEPP gets next, Kruck said the organization would like to build townhouses or even one-, two- or three-bedroom condos in a larger unit to help keep costs down.
"That would really drop the price down and really allow individuals to get in on home ownership at a much lower level."
Mario Ceron said anything that can be done to make homes more accessible would be helpful to families new to the area. Although they like their house as it sits now, Mario said they hope to plant some more trees in the front yard and make a patio in the backyard this summer.
"We like Brandon, it’s a safe place."
STEPP Eligibility criteria
• Applicants must be Canadian citizens or permanent residents.
• Applicants must have resided in Brandon for 12 months prior to application.
• Total household income must not exceed $64,000 (gross annual income from all sources).
• Must be a first time homebuyer.
• Minimum family requirement of one adult and two children.
• Must provide a mortgage pre-approval letter from a lending institution stating their maximum eligibility for a mortgage.
Note: the financial institution will be allowed to take register a first mortgage against the full market value of the home.
Applications are available at the Brandon Neighbourhood Renewal Association office at 410-9th Street.
» Brandon Neighbourhood Renewal Association
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 9, 2014