It was “a shot in the dark” that led to affordable homeownership for Siobhan, Steve and their four boys.
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Little did Siobhan know that a regular visit to the Thursday night Street Market in Sidney last year would lead her and her family to Habitat’s affordable homeownership program. “We really had given up on the idea that we would ever be able to own a home,” recalls Siobhan.
As part of the Market that night, Habitat Victoria’s information table was promoting the opportunity for local families to apply for one of the ten new affordable townhomes that would soon be under construction on the Peninsula. “I couldn’t stop at the time, but it started me thinking, so I went home and did some research and then spoke with my family.” Her husband Steve had heard of Habitat, but had no idea if their family would qualify. “It was a shot in the dark that led us here,” said Steve.
Siobhan, Steve and their four boys currently live in a split-level home that they rent just a couple of minutes from the new Habitat development. They have watched as other, similar homes in their neighbourhood have gradually been taken down to make way for higher density, smaller unit housing. “We are so thankful to be where we are right now, but being on an annual lease, the month before the renewal comes in is just so stressful,” Siobhan confided. “If we had to move again, I don’t think we could afford to stay on the Island.”
The family had previously lived in a heritage farmhouse, but when the landlord was faced with a hefty bill for electrical safety repairs he could not afford, the property was put up for sale. “It’s so hard to find somewhere suitable as not many people wanted to rent to a family of our size,” added Steve.
Siobhan came to the Island in 2005 as a single parent with two young boys and initially stayed with her mother, recalling “at the time my Mum was living in a one bed suite looking after my grandparents so we had four generations all under one roof.” She worked hard to carve out a new life and when she met and eventually married Steve, he gladly took on the whole family, adding “it was great, I always wanted boys!”
Siobhan is a talented photographer, but her business has been very slow since COVID began. She also volunteers part-time as an administrator for the church and home schools the younger children she and Steve had to complete their family. “One of our sons has some specific challenges that require frequent daytime appointments which would be very difficult to accommodate in a mainstream school environment,” explained Siobhan.
Steve grew up in a townhome complex. He remembers it as being fantastic for kids. “Our two younger boys are both really social so they are looking forward to having built-in playmates.” The older boys are both training for new careers; the eldest is now an electrical apprentice and their second son is hoping to graduate early from high school and head to college in the States.
Steve now works for the federal government. However, his real passion is firefighting. “I love it, it’s great to be able to help other people in their time of need,” enthused Steve. As a long-serving member of the Sidney Volunteer Fire Department, he is particularly pleased to be able to stay in the local area and continue to give back to the community.
The whole family has taken on the challenge of completing the additional volunteer hours required to partner with Habitat. “Both of our older boys are helping out and we have had the chance to work on the build site, in the ReStores and at events. It’s been a really good experience and we have so much respect for what the build team is doing,” said Steve.
When asked what they are looking forward to most about their new Habitat home, Steve and Siobhan said simply “That we can focus on the things we love and the work we do in the community instead of having to worry about what would happen if our landlord decided to sell our rental home like last time.”