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Habitat for Humanity VP cautions Edmonton chapter over mortgage change
EDMONTON -- A high-ranking executive with Habitat for Humanity International is calling out the non-profit's Edmonton chapter for changing a mortgage agreement that had some families concerned they'd have to find new housing.
Last week, CTV News Edmonton reported on dozens of Edmonton families fed up with the organization's local chapter after it changed its zero-interest mortgage agreement.
Families who build homes through habitat aren't required to put down a down payment, but are required to contribute 500 hours of volunteer work.
But dozens of families at Carter Place housing complex said their deal changed right before they were eligible to sign mortgage agreements.
Habitat's new deal splits the mortgage into two: one interest-free, the other with below-market interest.
“They just figured they could switch up the model on us last minute and expect us to accept it, and you’re messing with our lives,” said Carema Bouanani, a Carter Place resident.
On Thursday, Habitat for Humanity International senior vice-president Adrienne Goolsby scolded the chapter in a news release posted to the organization's website.
"Habitat for Humanity International expects that all families who partner with Habitat are treated with fairness and respect," she wrote. "Since learning of this dispute in October, we have engaged our colleagues at Habitat Edmonton with the expectation that they reach an appropriate solution with the families involved in this matter."
She went on to say any change to mortgage terms should only apply to future applicants.
A lawyer representing the 57 low-income families says he's hopeful the statement will lead to a resolution.
"The families are just overjoyed but again, they are a bit cautious because they've been down this route with Habitat before," said Avnish Nanda. "There is a lack of trust and I've been receiving emails over the last two days where families have been telling me that they felt pressured into signing some agreements and they don't know what to do now."
CTV Edmonton's requests for comment to the Edmonton chapter were not returned on Thursday.
Goolsby urged the chapter to delay any further action until mediation can take place.
On Friday, Habitat for Humanity Canada provided the following statement to CTV News Edmonton:
"Thanks for your inquiry. We are reviewing the recent developments and statement from Habitat International. We plan to issue a statement in response to this shortly. We’ll ensure you receive a copy of our statement as soon as it is released."