On July 21, 2016, Habitat for Humanity Vancouver Island North held a small private home dedication ceremony to welcome Jessica and Darryl Cote and their eight-year-old son, Riley, to their new Habitat home in Courtenay. The home is one of six constructed at Piercy Place in 2014. Improved financial security enabled the previous homeowners to purchase a home through a conventional mortgage and sell this one back to Habitat, allowing the organization to provide another family a hand up to break the cycle of poverty.
It was a friend of Jessica’s who suggested they apply for a Habitat home, after witnessing the struggles the family had gone through. While it took a lot of convincing for Jessica and her family to apply to become Habitat homeowners, the decision has opened up a world of possibilities to the young family.
“We went through some hardships and we were living in a house that wasn’t healthy, but I didn’t think we would qualify. I thought it was for people who had nowhere to live,” explains Jessica.
Jessica put it off, but her friend kept pushing until she relented.
“I finally applied, not thinking anything would come of it,” she says, as a smile comes across her face, “and here we are now!”
Habitat homeowner families must complete 500 hours of sweat equity in lieu of a down payment. Then, the home is sold to them and they are required to pay a no-interest mortgage that is set at 30 percent of their annual gross family income. Because of her health problems, which prohibit her from certain types of work, Jessica was worried about the commitment to the sweat equity hours. However, it ended up being one of the most rewarding aspects of the program for her.
“I was really worried about completing the hours, but Habitat works with you to find tasks that suit your abilities. I started out sorting screws and nails, and as I began feeling better, I did more and more.”
Jessica even had the opportunity to spend time working on the recent Campbell River build project.
“It actually gave me more confidence, to know I can do this stuff, stuff that I didn’t think I could do anymore. And I loved the build! The build was so much fun.”
What aspects of homeownership are the Cotes most looking forward to?
“The future we didn’t think we would have,” is Jessica’s simple, yet poignant, answer. “After I got sick my husband lost his job. Before that, we had all these ideas about the future, and I realized they just weren’t going to happen. I thought that my husband would have to work until he’s old and we would never have our own house. And now we have a future ahead of us. We can think about retirement, maybe even travelling if my health is okay. It’s opened up a whole new world.”
What is their son, Riley, most excited for? Jessica laughs and exclaims, “Stairs! That’s what he said: ‘I have always wanted a house with stairs!’”
Another exciting part of the move for Riley is having friends right next door. At their previous residence, there were no children around, but now there are five other Habitat families–two with children his age.
“He’s met the other kids and is already fast friends with them.”
Although Jessica has long finished her sweat equity hours, like many Habitat homeowners, she is not through with giving back to the community. She has found her time volunteering with Habitat so rewarding that she will continue to volunteer at the Courtenay ReStore.
Do you know a family that could use a hand up? Would your own family benefit from affordable homeownership? Join us for a family selection open house on September 22nd 6:30 p.m. at Lewis Centre in Courtenay. To learn more, contact Karen Bezaire, Family Services, 1-250-204-3003 or email Karen@HabitatNorthIsland.com.