A sod turning was held Saturday afternoon in Morden for the Habitat for Humanity Winkler-Morden chapter's fourth and fifth builds. Committee member Christina Falk said this will be a unique build, being the first duplex for the group, with two families benefitting from the project.

"Duplexes are common in other chapters in Manitoba, but this is our first, so we're super excited we get to get two families in at once instead of just one," said Falk. "I would like to plaster the word 'miracle' on the front of this duplex, in particular." 

The money for the lot for the build was provided by an anonymous donor, and the Chapter was also able to access grants, both of which moved up the timeline for this build.

"We did have the opportunity this year of accessing some grant funds that have not been available before, coming through Manitoba Housing and through the City of Morden, and because of those grant funds we were able to get this house off the ground, it's just been amazing," she explained. "I also want to acknowledge we had an incredible anonymous donor donate the full funds to purchase this lot, as well as our lot in Winkler that we're working on this year, and without those funds we just wouldn't have been able to have this project."

Peter, Rosella and their children are one of the families that will be moving in early next year.

"We're very excited, it's still surreal," said Peter. "It's like, yes, I know it's real, but it 's like my mind isn't grasping that yet. It's coming. I'm very excited. This is our first house, especially mine,  so it's something big. I've always dreamed to have a house, and now it's finally here, so I'm very excited."

These are the fourth and fifth builds for the chapter and Falk feels, with how quickly this project came together, it's a sign the region is recognizing how the Habitat program works for families.

"That (this is) an option for a lot of people here struggling with housing right now, and it's a program that keeps giving," said Falk. "These families move in, they pay their mortgage, and those payments help to pay for the next house build, and so everybody is working together to do it, and I think people just realize that works." 

Zephyr, Dayna and their children are the second family moving into the duplex.

"It means the world to us," said Zephyr. "We've been trying to save up for a down payment for a house, and now to have this basically given to us, and have the opportunity to have this house... we're just so excited. It's a blessing. This is going to help our family grow financially and spiritually. This community is beautiful, and I'm sure we'll meet a whole lot of new friends here."

Both families currently live in Winkler, but will be moving to Morden when the build is finished in Spring 2023.

Habitat for Humanity families

"It's an absolutely remarkable occasion when we look at community members coming into our community, and being part of our community and being able to live their lives with families here, it's very exciting," stated Morden Mayor Brandon Burley who was part of the sod turning ceremony. "Very thankful to the Province of Manitoba, obviously, for the granting that came available late last year for affordable (housing). In addition to this project, the City of Morden was able to allocate that granting into other additional rental units, as well as a sustainable housing strategy for the City of Morden. This is a first step in the direction of trying to make housing affordable for people who live and work and enjoy our community. " 

In 2021, Manitoba Housing granted the City of Morden $732,000 to fund the development of affordable housing initiatives. After a public request for proposals, City Council selected the following projects for funding:
- Scatliff Miller Murray Consultants - Affordable Housing Strategy - $42,000
- Parkland Place & Tamarack Builders – 8 New Affordable Housing Units - $500,000
- Habitat for Humanity – Duplex Project (2 new homes) - $ 190,000

"There is a bit of a timeline on this project, because the grant funds are only available if we're able to finish by Spring of 2023," noted Falk. "So the build should be completed, we hope, by March 2023. We're going to get digging in the next couple weeks. This time around, we're going to have more trades (working on the home), because of the timeline, but we will have some opportunity for volunteers, our families for this home, as well the husbands come from construction sort of backgrounds, and so they're going to get a lot of their volunteer hours building this house, which is great for them."

Each family needs to provide 500 hours of "sweat equity" to the project, and Falk notes it's rare to have most of those hours come through one member of the family participating in the construction. 

Looking ahead to what's next for Habitat for Humanity Winkler-Morden, Falk pointed to yet another build on the horizon.

"We are hoping for late 2023 for another house in Winkler," she explained. "We do have things in the works for that one, but again, we have to raise the funds in order to build that. If we can raise the full funds, we hope to be able to be building that house in 2023.  As we build this one (in Morden), we'll be building the next one, and we just ask people to keep supporting us."