Stepping on Solid Ground with Habitat’s Buy Back Model

When Randall Forrester, or Randy as he likes to be called, and his family moved into their house in the spring of 2004, he knew he was setting the foundation for his ten year plan. He and his wife had been proactively searching for a house for a long while and were getting ready to move out east to Saskatchewan when they heard about Habitat for Humanity on a CBC show.

Despite a few reservations, Randall decided to attend an introduction session and as they say the rest is history. Even though the time between the application and actual move was longer than he expected, Randy says that he and his wife were very clear that it was a “hand up” that would allow them to move into the local market they had been struggling with for so long.

“We knew we were reasonable, hardworking people and that we would get there”.

At the end of last summer Randy’s dream came true and he was able to acquire a house in New Westminster thanks to the Habitat Greater Vancouver buyback process. When asked about moving out of his ten-year home, Randy describes his exiting experience as “fantastic” as flexibility allowed him to plan out his transfer from one house to another on a convenient schedule.

The Forrester family’s Habitat journey was not a “perfect picture” as Randy puts it. Of course, there were a few challenges along the way, such as finding a school for his daughter, but he describes his experience as instrumental to accessing the regular market and feels strongly about “passing the opportunity along to others”.

He says that having worked onsite at Habitat while fulfilling the sweat equity requirement is really helping out with his current remodelling. “It gave me so much more knowledge and the practical skills of building and renovating a house”. Needless to say, Randy is also a frequent ReStore customer where he shops for supplies.

Randy says he is extremely grateful to Habitat for the opportunity and is eager to continue his relationship with the organization through supportive involvement. We wish him the best on his new adventure as a homeowner and look forward to running into him at the ReStores.

Habitat for Humanity
Richmond Build Update

Dear Power Women,Volunteers and Partners

I regret to inform you that our ground-breaking date for 8180 Ash Street has been postponed to the fall of 2015 due to the municipal application process.

Unfortunately, the feedback received from the community on house design and vehicle manoeuverability in parking areas has resulted in the denial of our Development Variance Permit application; thus forcing us to reconsider the calendar for our build in Richmond.

Also, we have been instructed by the City of Richmond to further our consultation with the local community. Hence, we will be holding a Public Information Meeting on May 12th at Debeck Elementary School, 8600 Ash Street from 6:30 to 8:00pm.

We will resubmit our application before the Development Permit Panel on June 24th and before City Council on July 13th.

I take this opportunity to personally thank you for your continuous support and patience.  We are thrilled by the interest our new build project has garnered. All across Metro Vancouver, Power Women and their supporters are taking a stand for affordable homeownership.

Though we are eager to break ground and put families into homes fast, we understand that sometimes the municipal approval process can be challenging. We are now more than ever determined to address all issues and inquiries in order to allow for a build date in late fall.

We thank you for your continuous support and patience and look forward to seeing you on our build site.



Tim Clark


Whisky Wisemen
DIY with Jillian Harris

Thank you to Women Build ambassador and fabulous interior designer Jillian Harris for giving our Women Build participants and fundraisers tips on how to spruce up their home designs during an intimate setting at our Burnaby ReStore-Enterprise location (7977 Enterprise Street).

For those who couldn't make it, here are some of Jillian's golden nuggets:


1. Give your space history

Modern is great but modern can date. Give your home an eclectic feel by blending old and new. After all, your rooms should be timeless, not stark.

2. Be bold, use colour

Not everything needs to be white. Consider keeping some antique pieces in their original state. It will give the room a sense of story and soul that can be shared.

3. Mix and match

There is no one way about design. Incorporate patterns and textures from your travels. Be expressive and explorative and forget about whether it goesor not with anything else. Ultimately, your designs are about you!

4. If you don't love it, leave it

Don't be married to designs you once liked if you've lost the connection. Be brave and consider replacing items that no longer serve your esthetic or have function. And donate what you don’t need to Habitat for Humanity Greater Vancouver’s ReStores.


For more tips by Jillian, click here.

For images from the Jillian Harris DIY event at our Burnaby ReStore-Enterprise Street location, click here.

Thank you to everyone who came out to support this event, including Women Build ambassadors Fiona Forbes and Kerry Sauriol, Shell Busey, Monica Busey-Ballard and Samantha and Kathy Van Gogh.

Habitat for Humanity
It's Official!

March 16th marks the official opening of our newest ReStore at 7977 Enterprise Street. Exciting times! The soft opening is on March 9th, so feel free to come by and shop, donate or volunteer then as well. Now until the end of March, bring a sellable item to donate and get 20% off your purchase. What we sell helps build homes locally for working families. We look forward to seeing you all and thank you for your continued support.


The Habitat Greater Vancouver team

Miranda Thorne
Celebrating 20 Years

Thank you to our volunteer, Briea Mainwaring, for designing our 20th anniversary logo. Here's to building homes and hope for another 20! 

Miranda Thorne
Ash Street Designed by ABBARCH Architecture Inc.

Habitat for Humanity Greater Vancouver (HFHGV) builds safe and decent homes, but we couldn’t do it without the help of our community partners like ABBARCH Architecture Inc.  After learning about our Richmond Ash Street project, they jumped on board and offered their design services at no cost to HFHGV. 

“We didn’t have to think about the opportunity too much,“ says David O’Sheehan, a principal of the firm, “one of our suppliers, Ledcor, contacted us to see if we would be interesting in helping Habitat for Humanity. It’s a good project, we like the site.  We’ll see it through to the end, doing whatever it takes to get it there.”

O’Sheehan and his team are now leading the design for the Richmond Ash Street project, working with HFHGV and the City of Richmond to finalize the 6 single-family homes and adjoining rental units.

The firm has supported a number of charities over the years, participating in fundraisers, galas, The BC Ride to Conquer Cancer, downtown east side initiatives, and other local causes.  They love to give back. This time, it’s something a little closer to home.  “We’re excited to get involved by swinging a hammer.  We actually get to help build what we have designed,” said Aaron Urion, an associate working on the project.

But before the staff can help build, Habitat will need the city’s approval on the designs. 

At the initial meeting with the City of Richmond’s planning department, the drawings presented require some adjustments due to the complex issues surrounding zoning and permitting. ABBARCH went back to the drawing board and HFHGV and the ABBARCH team will be presenting their new plans later this month.

Describing themselves as “architects with a modest ego”, they work with a low-key approach focused on getting the job done well.  They’re not hung up on one type of design, but rather, are adaptable and flexible to solve any problems for their client, the municipality, and the end user. 

Their emphasis on quality and high standard practices has not gone unnoticed.  ABBARCH has grown into one of Canada’s leading architectural firms with offices in Vancouver, Edmonton, and Toronto.  Currently celebrating their 35th anniversary, ABBARCH works with some of the biggest businesses in the world: IKEA, Wal-Mart Canada, and The Cadillac Fairview Corporation, to name a few.  

The firm had humble beginnings in the retail sector, starting with two founding partners. It experienced steady growth up until 2000 when a change in partnership was a catalyst for exponentially growth. Today, ABBARCH Architecture Inc, with the leadership of founding partner Michael Burton-Brown, has over 100 staff and is one ofCanada’s highest producing Architecture firms in the country.

We couldn’t be more appreciative of the support and brilliance ABBARCH Architecture Inc. continues to give our Richmond Ash Street Project.  We’re all looking forward to our build days together, commencing later this year.

Learn more about ABBARCH Architecture Inc.

Miranda Thorne
Youth Initiative Tackles Housing Market

Local youth make a difference!

Thank you to the grade 8 students of Ecole Andre-Piolat for tackling our current housing market using math (by mapping out income vs. affordable housing on a grid over time) and contemplating what we can do here, at home. The students also raised $77.65 towards Habitat Greater Vancouver. We are proud of their contribution, their thirst for knowledge and desire to help,  and relish in their community spirit. All the best!

To donate to Habitat Greater Vancouver, please click hereIf you'd like to volunteer with Habitat, sign up today.

Habitat for Humanity
Congratulations are in order!

The Genworth Canada's Meaning of Home Contest winner has been announced. A big round of applause for Tyler, 11 years-old, from Airdrie, AB for taking first place and awarding his local Habitat affiliate with the $60,000 grand prize. Way to go! And many congratulations to the six runner-ups, who each contributed $5,000 to their local affiliate, one of which is ours. Great job Ashley and all grade 4, 5 and 6 children who participated. Your community spirits are remarkable. We're proud of you all.

Miranda Thorne
Hot Off the Press

Our Women Build campaign, Power Women Power Tools, is getting some buzz online and off. Thanks to CTV News Vancouver and anchor Norma Reid (who's also a Women Build ambassador!) for the piece on November 18 part of the 11:30PM edition. And a kind thank you to all the media personalities who came to support our launch event. Here are a few articles in print and online to share:

Vancouver Observer 

Darpan Magazine

Vancouver Courier

CBC Radio's The Early Edition (starts at 2:39-)

Photobooth images from the event are on our Facebook page.


Women Build is powered by P&G.

Habitat for Humanity
Our Story: Part III

...Continued from Part II

During the Phase 1 build, the organization was noticing businesses becoming much more risk adverse and funds were drying up.  Gloria had seen the value of the ReStore with other affiliations and promised her reluctant Board that she could set up the store without tapping into any of HFHGV current funds or volunteer resources. 

With the Boards approval, Gloria set up a new committee, went to BCIT for assistance in developing a 3-year business plan, and started a location search.  In 2002, the same year as the completion of Phase 1, HFHGV opened its doors to its first ReStore in Burnaby. In the first year, the hope was for the ReStore to break even, but by year-end the business netted $300,000. 

Feeling confident that the organization was in a solid position with a building plan, funding channels and community resources, in 2004, Gloria Levi, Board Chair, stepped down from the organization due to health issues.  HFHGV hired an Executive Director, Anneke Rees, to lead the organization.  Under the new leadership, the organization completed Phase 2 (2004), Phase 3 (2006), Phase 4 (2008), Phase 5 (2011), and opened the second ReStore in Vancouver in 2006.  Tim Wake took over in 2011 as CEO and closed on the Cordova project with Westbank and Vancity before passing the reins over to Tim Clark in 2012, the current CEO of HFHGV.  2013 was a pinnacle year with the opening of the third ReStore in North Vancouver and the completion of the final phase, Phase 6, of Government Street.

In total, 27 families with 43 children call 8745 Government Street home.  

At the dedication celebration for Phase 6, Gloria Levi was awarded the first Honourary Life Membership Award. She is without a doubt the soul of our affiliation.  Her passion, energy and vision made it possible for HFHGV to celebrate incredible accomplishments over the years.  She provided a strong foundation for us to build on, year after year.

Today, the organization continues to foster relationships with influential community partners and individual volunteers to evolve and grow our build site and ReStore operations.  HFHGV has expansion plans for ReStores to open in all the major markets in the lower mainland, with even bigger aspirations for our builds.  As we carry out our mission to end the cycle of poverty and advocate for affordable homeownership, HFHGV’s efforts are focused on building more homes, faster, for low-income hard-working families.

Miranda Thorne
Our Story: Part II

Gloria Levi and four of the 11 original executive members made for a fresh start for Habitat for Humanity Greater Vancouver (HFHGV) in 1997. Gloria quickly found available crown land owned by the Ministry of Transportation and Highways and set off to Victoria to position HFHGV as a buyer. 

Eventually the Ministry offered HFHGV a choice of land options. An acre lot on Government Street, the largest of the options, was selected. Since the land was to be used only for affordable housing, it was sold for 25 per cent of the 1998 market value and a $175,000 mortgage was set up through BC Housing with HFHGV paying as they could.

Gloria continued to rely on her personal network to build the HFHGV Board. She found ten leaders to run ten committees including: construction, family support, family search, procurement, religious institution liaison, corporate volunteers, individual volunteers, marketing and promotions, union labour relations, and fund development. 

Gloria found the right people for the right roles. Building connections from the organization to influential community members meant grants were coming in from a number of socially responsible companies while educational support, such as schooling on how to approach companies for funding was helping to improve those fundraising efforts.  What started as five-person group transformed into a powerful, connected organization of 150 volunteers.

The accomplishment in the first year was incredible.Gloria and the team raised $350,000; $125,000 came from the Bentall Group of Companies alone. “I was relentless. I ate, breathed, and lived Habitat,” said Gloria.

Having the land in place and a stable organizational structure, the next step was to get the land rezoned for multi-unit development. With a number of unexpected challenges, the rezoning process with the City of Burnaby was finally complete a year and a half later, three times longer than expected. Issues with a high water table, environmental concerns surrounding the Red Tail Hawk, new rain screening regulations, parking space discrepancies and the high cost of property taxes consumed and delayed the Habitat build.

The challenges were overshadowed by the excitement of the build plans. At the time of its inception in 1999, the Government Street build, a 27-townhome community, was the largest single Habitat for Humanity Build ever undertaken in Canada. Other affiliates across Canada had constructed more houses, but this was the first to include such a large number of homes on one site. 

In 2000 construction started on the raw land installing electricity, sewers, gas and water. In spring of 2002, the first four Habitat homes were complete and HFHGV was welcoming the first four Habitat families home.

To be continued...

Miranda Thorne
Our Story: Part I

The words home and family are synonymous with Habitat for Humanity Greater Vancouver (HFHGV); both important and invaluable to the growth of our community, our people and our organization.  

In celebration of Family Day and the growth of HFHGV, we're sharing the story of our humbled beginnings.  The determination and passion of one has blossomed into a family of over 400 volunteers, staff and Habitat families.   Hundreds more have shown their support by hosting fundraisers, working on our build sites, donating materials and visiting our ReStores, all with the common goal to help build safe and decent homes.      

Habitat for Humanity Greater Vancouver was founded in 1995, but it wasn’t until 1997 when Gloria Levi, a Gerontologist, immersed herself in the organization that the reality of building affordable Habitat homes for low-income, hard-working families was put into motion.

In May of 1997 Gloria lost her daughter-in-law to breast cancer.  Grief stricken for months, Gloria eventually heard about a Habitat for Humanity Blitz build in Newfoundland.  Needing something to distract and re-energize, she set out to learn more.  The build was already full, but Gloria called Habitat for Humanity Canada and they managed to include her amongst their 300 volunteers for the July build.

Volunteers came from around the world including Mexico, Texas and Jamaica, all at their own expense.  Gloria met others with similar stories; one woman recently lost her daughter and her church helped raise the funds to cover her expenses.  Another woman, recently divorced, needed to reconnect with others.  A common thread of the volunteers was to find a sense of purpose through helping others.

On site Gloria managed the dining room facilities, ensuring the space was set up and equipped for the volunteer’s meal breaks.  The team worked very long days, from early morning to late evening.  The objective was to complete seven homes in five days.  A tall order, but Gloria’s memories brought a smile to her face as she reflected, “On day three the electrical was put in and all seven homes had light. It was an exciting moment when they were all lite up.  Everyone was so determined. People were so happy - negativity could not interfere with our success.  The build really brought out the best in all of us.”

With a new sense of purpose, Gloria returned to Vancouver and joined Habitat for Humanity Greater Vancouver with the promise to do what the organization hadn’t been able to do yet, get land to build.  “I came back inspired to be involved. Habitat has a niche approach.  It’s not a vehicle for welfare, it’s for the working poor, people working for a living in need of a ‘hand up.’”

To be continued... here.

Miranda Thorne