From a house to a home, “now it’s our own”

Larry Auger, left, and his wife Verna Auger, are all smiles as they have become owners of the house they have rented from Heart River Housing.

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Larry and Verna Auger now have an opportunity to own their own home.

Their house is one of five in High Prairie that Heart River Housing (HRH) has offered in a lease-to-purchase program, a pilot project for social housing in Alberta.

“It’s exciting,” Verna Auger says.

“We just wanted to be homeowners.

“It turned a house into a home, now it’s our own.”

Her husband agrees.

“It was a long time coming, we all got excited,” Larry Auger says.

HRH administrator Lindsay Pratt says the program benefits everyone.

“People who can’t get into a conventional mortgage can have success with the program.”

Heart River Housing provides subsidized social housing throughout the wide region. he explains.

“Clients selected for this program are existing heart River Housing tenants,” Pratt says.

“Those families have used Heart River Housing to stabilize their lives and have all improved their income to a point they will need to move into the private-sector rental market.

“The program gives moderate-income families with stable jobs an opportunity to eventually own their own homes with no cost to the taxpayer.”

He says the lease-to-purchase program for current HRH clients started in June after it was approved by the Ministry of Seniors and Housing under the former NDP government.

Besides five homes in High Prairie, the government approved four homes in Girouxville and two in Fox Creek.

“We’ve been asking for this for about eight years, we think it’s a good idea,” Pratt says.

“It’s tremendously costly for governments to operate a single-family home as a subsidized rental unit, but these homes perfect for first-time homeowners.”

He says revenue from the program will be reinvested into future affordable housing projects.

The Town of High Prairie is also excited that the program will provide property taxes to the municipality, Pratt says.

HRH tenant liaison co-ordinator Shirley Matula says the Augers are prime candidates for the program.

“Larry and Verna are at the forefront, they came to Heart River Housing as a low-income family with nowhere to live,” Matula says.

“Over the years, they stabilized their home life, learned to save for the future and secured full-time stable employment.

“So they became prime candidates for home ownership.

“We wanted them to be able to own their home where they raised their daughters.”

The Augers took responsibility for their finances and started planning for homeownership.

They learned about budgeting and how to maintain a home as part of the application process.

“Now we have a solid foundation for our kids,” Verna Auger says.

They have lived in the house on Evergreen Drive for 12 years and been HRH tenants for 14 years.

The Augers have seven daughters 10-22 years of age and two children under kinship, the youngest 9 years old.

As owners, they have big plans for their dream home.

“Now we can have what we want, paint walls different colours,” Larry Auger says.

“We can do whatever we want, within budget.”

Pratt says he wants to see the program expand to more homes and in other communities.

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