Scott Street (left) and Nick Derksen have started Build Chilliwack

Scott Street (left) and Nick Derksen have started Build Chilliwack

How to build a better Chilliwack

A local initiative will cover the down payment on a house for one deserving family.

A new local initiative will fund one deserving family’s down payment on a house, in an attempt to provide the security of home ownership to a family that would otherwise not have access to it.

Build Chilliwack is inviting applications for a pilot attainable housing program that will provide a non-repayable grant of 5-7 per cent downpayment on the cost of a new home.

If there’s enough demand, organizers Scott Street and Nick Derksen, from developer Summit Pacific Properties, may renew the program annually.

This isn’t affordable or low-cost housing. Rather, it’s providing entry into the housing market for a family, broadly defined, that can afford a mortgage, but whose adults may be employed in jobs that haven’t allowed the family to save for a down payment.

“It’s a different population that could easily be forgotten,” said Chilliwack Community Services executive director James Challman, who believes that owning a home builds community, and provides a sense of security.

CCS, which heads the selection committee for Build Chilliwack, is seeking a family that is making Chilliwack its home, and is giving back to the community in some way.

“People that have been active in helping the community, through volunteering or other ways, that the community can give back to,” said Street.

The family’s current housing situation is also a factor.

Once selected, Summit Pacific Properties will build a new home for the family with a fair market value of $400,000–$425,000, in a new lot likely in the Promontory area. The total house will be approximately 2,500 square feet, not necessarily fully finished. The family will have a say in the lot location, as well as the interior and exterior design.

The projected $25,000-30,000 grant will come from contractors working on the house, such as the developer, construction crew, plumber, electrician, and lumber supplier. Each will provide a portion of their profits toward covering the down payment. The cost of the house will not inflate to cover the grant.

The selected family will have to afford a mortgage of approximately $1,750 before taxes, insurance and utilities, which means a combined annual income of about $55,000. A bank will review all applications.

In an effort to have “buy-in” from the future home-owner, Build Chilliwack requires that the family cover approximately $6,000 in fees, including legal fees, land transfer tax, and mortgage interest during construction.

“Our belief is that, if somebody’s invested financially, then they’re going to have a lot more ownership of it,” said Street. “This isn’t a hand out, this is a hand up. This is helping somebody that has those resources and foresight to have some finances, to take that next step, although they wouldn’t have a down payment.”

Street and Derksen have operated Summit Pacific Properties in Chilliwack for about three years, and have built ten homes.

The two started Build Chilliwack as a way to give back. They are bearing all risk of the project, and will receive no revenue from it.

“This is a part of who we are. We have a strong desire to be engaged in the community and help in ways that fit with who we are and what are strengths are,” said Street.

Derksen has gone on a house-building trip to Mexico, while Street was on the restorative justice board for two years. Both volunteer in the community.

They’re modeling Build Chilliwack on a similar program in Kelowna, Project Build Society, which has operated for about five years and has resulted in numerous houses being built.

“We’re doing this as a pilot for Chilliwack Community Services. We want to see how much need there is in the community, and if it works for us. After the pilot, we’ll reevaluate it and see if it works to do more,” said Street.

Build Chilliwack is accepting applications form now until Aug. 6, 2013. Forms are available online, and should be submitted to Chilliwack Community Services at 45938 Wellington Ave. Once accepted, it will be 6–8 months before move-in.