New Neighbours for Huntsville

By MANDI HARGRAVE

With a lot of love and just as much hard work, two young families are now homeowners.

The Foran-Speicher and Guildford-Rhiness families received the keys to their brand new homes on April 22 during a key ceremony hosted by Habitat for Humanity Ontario Gateway North. The two families were selected as the recipients for the duplex build on Irene Street after a stringent selection process.

Foran will be moving in with her husband, James Speicher, and their 6-year-old son, Ethan. “We feel so much love and support from the community,” added Foran.

Aly Guildford, Joel Rhiness and their 6-month old son, Oliver, will be the Foran-Speicher’s new neighbours.

They’re just as amazed at the support from the community.

“It’s amazing to see how much a community is a community,” said Guildford. “I’m happy our son will have a home to grow up in,” she said, noting that she moved around quite a bit growing up.

“This is awesome,” said Rhiness, whose experience with Habitat for Humanity has come full circle. “I’ve been involved with Habitat before and now have my own home.”

While studying carpentry at Georgian College, in Bracebridge, Rhiness helped build a Habitat for Humanity home in Gravenhurst. “My class was on site every day for most of the build,” said Rhiness. “It’s how I first found out about Habitat for Humanity.”

The regional CEO for Habitat, David Morris, said it’s nice to see young families moving in to the neighbourhood. “I think it’s a great neighbourhood for them to move into with a very well used park next door.”

The selection process to choose a family for a Habitat build takes about six months.

“We look for families that are in substandard housing that need decent, basic housing and are prepared to partner with Habitat,” said Morris. “Part of that commitment is that they put in a minimum of 500 hours on the build of their home and are prepared to make a mortgage payment. There’s an impression that Habitat gives homes for free to poor people. We don’t. We partner with what we used to call working-poor families who are hardworking.”

Morris said the difference with a Habitat mortgage is that they don’t require a down payment, the mortgage is interest-free, and once a year the payment is reviewed to ensure the family isn’t paying more than 25 per cent of their income.

Both families were struggling to find suitable living arrangements prior to being chosen for the Huntsville build.

The Foran-Speicher family was living in a geared-to-income apartment and the Guildford-Rhiness family was living with their parents.

(From left) Alyssa Foran, Ethan and James Speicher were excited to receive the keys to their new home

“It was a pleasure to watch the community respond with enthusiasm on the build,” said Meghan Smith, COO with the regional Habitat, noting how much support local businesses gave during the build. “It was a combined effort of everyone. The families spent countless hours on site, so eager to have a space for their children to grow. We’re happy to welcome them into our Habitat family.”

Mayor Scott Aitchison said one of the challenges the Huntsville community faces is home ownership.

“Our council understands the importance of people having a home,” he said. “It’s the foundation for a family to grow and contribute to the community. Habitat helps create an opportunity that wouldn’t be available otherwise. We thank them for the work they do.”

Morris said in his work it’s a privilege to see how the community comes together to build a house, from small moments to big moments.