(June 13, 2019—Hamilton, ON) Rising water levels in Lake Ontario is cause for concern for Habitat for Humanity Hamilton. The affordable housing organization owns a plot of the land in the Hamilton Beach Community and has plans to build in the area. Habitat Hamilton has built safe, decent and affordable housing since its inception in 1991 and have built homes within the beach community since 2001. Despite years of experience building in this area, Habitat Hamilton faces new obstacles relating to the significant increase in the water table. The charity is facing delays with the start of construction, which has multiple far-reaching repercussions.
We are now calling on the community for assistance, in hopes that monetary or land donations may help with current and future build progress—so that we can mitigate delays, such as the one we’re currently facing, from recurring.
The Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA) issued a watershed conditions statement in May, advising the general public that “Lake Ontario’s water levels continue to be significantly above normal, due to record inflows from Lake Erie and continuing flooding in the St. Lawrence River.” Though HCA predicts water levels will soon begin to decline, it believes water levels “will remain very high into the summer months.”
This is not good news for Habitat Hamilton, which is experiencing delays breaking-ground on its single-unit build. We build homes to complement surrounding neighbourhoods, adapting to local conditions. That’s why when we design homes in the Hamilton Beach Community, we build slab-on-grade foundations, eliminating the risk of a flooded basement, something too many beach community residents know far too well.
Even with a slab-on-grade foundation design, Habitat Hamilton continues to face obstacles relating to breaking-ground. “We’ve had contractors on-site on a number of occasions who have attempted to dig for a foundation, but every time the shovel hits the ground, the hole fills in with water,” says Peter Walberg, Construction Program Manager at Habitat Hamilton. “We’ve tried different methods and we’re still exploring some potential (albeit expensive) work-arounds, but it’s looking like sunshine and less rain are our best options at this point,” confesses Walberg.
With a future Habitat homeowner family already selected for the Beach Community home, Habitat Hamilton’s Executive Director, Sean Ferris, worries the charity won’t be able to meet its projected timelines. “We had planned to have our beach community build complete by the end of this year, but if we can’t pour our foundation soon, I fear we’ll miss our deadline. That means Agartha and her family will remain in precarious living conditions for longer—a possibility we want to prevent from happening,” says Ferris.
Agartha Manu, a single mother of three, set to become a Habitat homeowner in the Hamilton Beach Community, understands the importance of safe and affordable housing. Currently, Agartha and her family live in a rented home that’s in disrepair, with broken windows and a leaky roof. The home is too small for her family, so she shares a bedroom with her youngest daughter. Despite these challenges, Agartha never lets her hardships slow her down.
Having completed her 500 hours of volunteer time in the Hamilton ReStore, Agartha is eagerly anticipating the day when she signs her (interest-free and geared-to-income) mortgage agreement with Habitat Hamilton and receives the keys to her new home. “This potential delay is just another bump in the road my family will face and overcome. We will get through whatever comes our way, just like we have done so before. But my hope is that we’ll be able to move into our new home soon. I know that every day we spend living in our leaky, overcrowded house, is another day that I’m not providing my children with a safe and decent place to call home,” says Manu. Despite the potential delays Habitat Hamilton is experiencing, Agartha considers herself lucky: “There are so many people stuck living in conditions which are too expensive and unsafe. My family is very fortunate to have found and partnered with Habitat Hamilton and I’m so grateful for that.”
Beyond the impact these delays may have on Agartha and her family, Habitat Hamilton has also had to turn away volunteers eager to help while also finding new work for its Youth Build Program students. “We rely on general volunteers and students to help us build homes efficiently and cost effectively. But when we’re hit with delays on site, we’re forced to scramble and think on our feet to find valuable work to keep us moving forward. Volunteers and students have constructed the frame of the home offsite, but now we’re running out of meaningful work. The fear is that we won’t be able to continue to engage the community, as we have in the past, if we don’t break-ground soon,” explains Tom Vert, Board Chair of Habitat Hamilton. “Lack of consistent work also puts our Youth Build Program at risk, a program we’ve been running for eight years in partnership with both secondary school boards in Hamilton. Not only does this program provide us with consistent labour from the students enrolled, it also provides approximately 25 students, per term, with valuable skilled-trades work experience. To lose a program that provides such a meaningful impact in the community would be a real shame,” says Vert.
Habitat Hamilton continues to speak with experts in an effort to find other available options to break-ground and come to a solution that’s more dependable than hoping for better weather. Habitat for Humanity Hamilton is currently requesting support from the community—welcoming monetary contributions and land donations that could help combat current and future delays. To learn more about how you can support, please contact Habitat for Humanity Hamilton for more information.
To donate, please visit www.habitathamilton.ca/donate.
About Habitat for Humanity Hamilton
Founded in 1991, Habitat for Humanity Hamilton is an independent, not-for-profit housing program that builds strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter. Habitat Hamilton has accommodated 26 Habitat homeowners locally since its incorporation and is one of Habitat Canada’s fastest growing affiliates, with several builds and developments forthcoming. For more information, please visit www.habitathamilton.ca.
For more information, please contact:
Sean Ferris, Executive Director, Habitat for Humanity Hamilton