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Home sweet home (November 01, 2006)

EDMONTON, Alta. - The Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) is teaming up with Habitat for Humanity Edmonton to build the foundation for an opportunity to help families now and for years to come.


EDMONTON, Alta. – The Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) is teaming up with Habitat for Humanity Edmonton to build the foundation for an opportunity to help families now and for years to come.

The Transport Build project will see the organizations partner up to construct a four-unit building in Alberta’s capital city and provide affordable home ownership to families who otherwise may not have the opportunity to obtain a mortgage.

“It’s a good organization and it’s a good cause. For us to support it and raise money is a good opportunity for our industry,” said Henry Van Steenbergen, president of the AMTA. “We wrote letters to our members saying that we’re supporting this project and left it up to each member to determine their own involvement.”

Every couple of years the AMTA throws its weight behind a project that contributes to the betterment of society. Most recently, the association went to work with STARS to help raise funds for the air rescue organization’s Vision Critical Campaign. The $25 million campaign will help with the purchase of two new technologically advanced helicopters and expand STARS’ coverage abilities.

Shifting focus from the sky to the ground, the AMTA is now helping to build a $400,000 complex not far from one of Edmonton’s busiest intersections.

“As an industry we’re part of the community and feel responsible to contribute to the well-being of society. We feel called upon to address these responsibilities,” Van Steenbergen told Truck West. “It’s ultimately up to each individual or carrier to determine their involvement.”

The site is located on 97th Street and just south of Yellowhead Trail, which doubles as Hwy. 16 and is one of the city’s major truck routes. Situated near a major thoroughfare, Habitat for Humanity Edmonton contacted the AMTA to see if there would be interest in partnering on the project. Habitat for Humanity has been at work in Edmonton since 1991, building on average four or five homes at a time.

“Last year we did a major overhaul and did nine homes in 2005,” explained Brenley Bennett, communications coordinator with Habitat for Humanity Edmonton. “This year we’re currently constructing 12 homes. In the spring, we will start on a 17 home unit and our goal is to do 20 homes per year.”

The organization’s ability to increase its output has been a direct result of partnerships with willing participants like the AMTA.

“It’s not just important, it’s absolutely critical; without sponsorships like this we wouldn’t be able to build homes,” Bennett told Truck West. “We get a lot of support from the community, which is the only way we can do what we do.”

The importance of the non-profit organization has increased recently due to Alberta’s booming economy.

With housing prices climbing at a rapid pace during the past year in Alberta, more families than ever are finding it more elusive to obtain home ownership. By July, 2006 the price of a new home in Canada rose by 11% during the previous 12 months, according to Statistics Canada. Of all the major metropolitan areas in the country only Calgary and Edmonton saw double digit increases during the 12-month span, 56% and 30% respectively.

“Certainly the need is greater than ever with rent and house prices going up. Contractors are scarce and prices are going up, it’s crucial we can build affordable homes for people,” noted Bennett.

Typically Habitat for Humanity Edmonton tries to raise approximately $100,000 per unit. The homes are sold to eligible families at no profit to the organization and financed by Habitat for Humanity with a 0% interest mortgage.

Who gets the homes is based on need. There are three criteria used for choosing a family: need, the income has to be of a certain level and their current home situation has to be unsuitable; ability to pay, they have to have the ability to pay the mortgage, maintenance, taxes, utilities and other housing expenses; and willingness to partner, applicants have to believe in and support Habitat for Humanity, its initiatives and be willing to offer 500 hours of volunteer labour.

As families pay off the mortgage, the money is reinvested in building new homes and is one of the reasons the organization is fond of saying they offer a “hand up” and not a “hand out.”

“We actually sell the homes to the families, so we are able to reinvest it to create more homes. That’s $400,000 that will never go away,” said Bennett. “It really is a helping hand for a family, for whatever reason, needs help getting a mortgage.”

Although prefabbing for the site began in January, the Transport Build site had its official dedication on March 11. Volunteers from the Canadian Armed Forces have been working at the site and construction will continue through the winter.

Habitat for Humanity Edmonton hopes to have the Transport Build site completed early in 2007 and have all the families moved in by March. Bennett said that so far the response from Alberta’s trucking community has been encouraging.

“Obviously a lot of them have jumped on board by mailing in the pledge forms, which is fantastic. The main way to get involved is to come out to the site and help with the build,” she noted.


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