At Daphne’s last rental home in Winnipeg, the attic bedroom had such a low ceiling, her six-foot-tall, 11year-old son couldn’t stand up straight. In the winter, the house was cold. “We just had baseboard heaters,” said Daphne, a single mother of two.
In 2010, Daphne and her family moved into a new, permanent home sponsored by Habitat for Humanity. In contrast to their former home, the new one is well insulated, with triple-pane windows. Each family member gets a bedroom with no stooping required.
The new home is one of 32 homes built on the grounds of the former Sir Sam Steele School, in the city’s Elmwood neighbourhood. Situated on a major transit route to downtown, the development has easy access to shopping and features playgrounds and park areas, making it attractive to growing families. Habitat for Humanity’s vision for the site was to create the first LEED-certified housing in the province and the greenest affordable housing development in Canada. LEED refers to the rating system for green building, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
“We are in the day and age of ‘green’ and being eco-friendly, so that was one of our mandates,” said Ken McIntyre, Manager of Communications for Habitat for Humanity’s Winnipeg affiliate. “The other thing is that we are in the business of building affordable homes for families, and we want to make them even more affordable.”
With low energy bills in mind, Habitat asked sponsors like Investors Group, Manitoba Hydro and The Home Depot to donate components that would contribute to energy efficiency. Habitat staff worked on Sir Sam Steele with its integrated project team, which brings together architects, engineers, landscape architects, and experts in energy and water conservation and air quality, to ensure Habitat homes meet Manitoba’s Power Smart Gold standard.
CMHC provided $10,000 in Seed Funding to assist in the project’s preliminary design work. Ten homes received funding under the provincial Een Dah Aung Home Ownership Program. This program was supported in part by federal trust funding transferred to Manitoba for Aboriginal housing.
Before moving in, Daphne and her children visited their unit often, watching it grow. She said that neighbours frequently came out to greet them and tell them they were going to love it at Sir Sam Steele, not just because of the number of kids playing outside, the safe park and schools nearby, but also because the heating bills are so low.
“That sense of community is one of the perks of a Habitat for Humanity community,” said McIntyre. “Working together for hundreds of hours on something for their common good means nobody moves into a neighbourhood full of strangers.”