There was a time when I believed Kate Marshall and Cathy Borowec of Habitat for Humanity Canada.
The Brandon Sun editorial of Monday, Sept 24, quotes Marshall, “Our first priority is the people and the families that have been accepted into the building …” Nothing could be further from the truth. To really do this story justice would take more space than this paper has. I do, however, believe that the public deserves to have some insight into this tragic situation.
In our original agreement with Habitat Brandon, we were never given a set monthly payment. The amount would be different for each one of us, calculated in much the same way as many low-income rents. Our monthly payment would be set at 30 per cent of our income and combine our mortgage, condo fees and property taxes. Would that be sustainable for Habitat Brandon? I don’t know. Would it be affordable for the homeowners — absolutely!
If this financial arrangement was not up to national standards, the partner families were never made aware of it. I was not even aware that Habitat Brandon was in trouble until June 2012, when in fact, they had been on probation since late 2010. This was only shortly after I was selected to receive a home.
Would it have not been prudent to inform the potential homeowners so they could make the decision of whether to continue as partner families? Imagine the stress that could have been averted if we had known the truth almost two years earlier!
When the going got tough, Kate Marshall and Cathy Borowec of Habitat Canada slipped into the shadows and David Morris of D.J. Morris & Associates became the new face of Habitat Canada. Instead of making an agreement with a local charity, we were then faced with a corporate mentality that we were not prepared for. Even though he invited our input and suggestions, it soon became clear that the decision to sell the building had already been made.
Morris is not the saviour who kept the Habitat families from buying something they couldn’t afford. He is the project manager hired to clean up Habitat for Humanity’s mess. I’m sure that Habitat Brandon was guilty of mismanagement and of not following national standards. Their hearts, however, were in the right place. Habitat Canada, the national organization, became responsible when it put the affiliate on probation in 2010. It has failed the partner families miserably.
It is true that the top floor of the Massey building will provide 14 new housing units for low-income families. This, however, is of little consolation to the families who worked so hard to achieve their dream of home ownership. This process has gone on for years and it has taken its toll on all of us. We are worn, tired and emotionally drained. Far from being Habitat’s first priority, we, their partner families, remain no priority at all.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 26, 2012