Soo Mill Donates Land to Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity Sault Ste. Marie & Area is excited to announce a generous land donation from SooMill Buildall that will play a major role in supporting affordable homeownership for families in Sault Ste. Marie.

Though improvements are being made, Sault Ste. Marie is unfortunately no stranger to the shortage of safe, decent, and affordable housing for low-income earners.

Based on the Provincial Policy Statement definition and data from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, an “affordable” rental home in Sault Ste. Marie would have a monthly rent of $886 or less.

According to the United Way’s 2020 Sault Ste. Marie Poverty Round Table: Progress on Impact Report, a family of four living right at the low-income cut-off would need to spend 32% of their annual income on what would be considered “affordable” rent. The situation is even more dire for their counterparts in the lowest income bracket, with this cost accounting for over 82% of their annual income. Even if a home is affordable, there could be other issues putting the family at risk such as mold, disrepair, overcrowding, inaccessibility, or being in an unsafe neighbourhood.

“I’ve lived on the streets, I’ve bounced around between rental properties, you know, trying to find something suitable, I am a mom with a little girl. The waiting lists are unreal. I know when my daughter was born we applied for geared to income housing and she was already three to four years old by the time I got a call that we were accepted for a one-bedroom apartment,” said Casey Gardner, a local Habitat Homeowner.

Habitat strives to help bridge this gap by building safe, decent, and affordable homes for local families who are in need, willing and able to partner with Habitat, and otherwise unable to obtain a traditional mortgage. The nonprofit’s ability to do so, however, relies heavily upon public support and generous donations such as the land donated by SooMill.

“Soo Mill and the Hollingsworth family have always prided themselves on supporting community-based initiatives. Habitat’s mission is something that dovetails well with what we as a company can do to help impact our community in a positive and lasting manner. Habitat’s motto of ‘Giving a hand up and not a hand out’ has proven to be a winning long-term strategy throughout North America. Our goal is to continue to support Habitat moving forward and openly welcome other businesses to participate in any way they are able,” states SooMill President, Randy Aikens.

The donated land is a large property located at 661 Goulais Avenue that can accommodate approximately five homes – a first of its size for Habitat. A perfect location for families, it is conveniently located along a bus route in the city’s west end and is within walking distance of Korah Collegiate & Vocational School, three elementary schools, Northern Community Centre, McMeeken Arena, parks, and grocery stores.

“This is such a generous donation. We can’t thank Soo Mill Buildall enough for their contribution to Habitat’s Affordable Homeownership Program. Our work isn’t possible without the support of the community. We need to build more houses and serve more families, and we need community support to do it,” says Frank Bentrovato, Habitat Board Chair.

The design of the project, including parking, unit numbers, and height, will be determined through discussions with neighbours and the public planning review process. The intent of the project is to provide affordable homeownership to as many families as possible, as is Habitat’s mission.

The date of construction will be determined by funding. Habitat for Humanity Sault Ste. Marie & Area is still looking for build sponsors for the upcoming 2021 Wellington Street project, as well as this new Goulais Avenue project.

Still in the early stages of the planning process, the nonprofit doesn’t expect homeowner applications to open until sometime in 2021. Habitat is currently preparing to start on the site plan, which will be followed by severing the properties into separate lots and servicing them.

“Our hope is to sever the lots throughout the winter and be in a position to service the lots next summer. This would put us in a good position to start construction in 2022 depending on funding,” states Katie Blunt, Executive Director with Habitat.

Habitat’s relationship with SooMill Buildall is not new, having worked with the business on projects such as their McAllen street build and the current build on Oakwood Drive which will be completed by the end of the year. The partners will also be working together on a fundraiser in the near future.

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