02/19/2015 08:16 EST | Updated 04/21/2015 05:59 EDT

Habitat for Humanity wants B.C. to waive development fees for affordable ownership homes

Habitat For Humanity, which builds affordable ownership housing with the help of volunteer labour and donated supplies, wants to change provincial laws so all cities in B.C. will waive development costs for the homes it builds.

The non-profit organization first put forward the request to Kamloops city council and plans to further pursue the idea at an upcoming Union of B.C. Municipalities event in May.

Kamloops city council did not immediately approve the request, saying it needed more information.

"They're not aware of the process Habitat for Humanity uses for our homeowners," said Jan Lingford, the executive director of Kamloops Habitat For Humanity.

Lingford said their homeowners are very carefully screened.

"They're people that are the ones that just get turned down at the bank or the mortgage company because they have not quite enough income," she said.

Currently, the Local Government Act says development fees are waived for non-profit rental housing only. Habitat For Humanity wants the act to include non-profit ownership housing as well.

Zero-interest mortgage

Lingford says development fees cost between $15,000 and $20,000 per home they build.

Habitat For Humanity is planning on building 54 new homes across the province this year, Lingford said, so waiving the fees would save the organization hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Homeowners pay for the low-cost homes with a zero-interest mortgage and no down payment. They also have to put 500 hours of volunteer labour — "sweat equity" — into building their home.

If homeowners ever want to sell their home, they have to share the equity with Habitat For Humanity, which gets first right of refusal to purchase it at what it cost.

Development costs cover city expenses like hooking up sewage and power lines. The fees are already waived in Saskatchewan and Ontario, and in various municipalities across Canada.

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: Habitat for Humanity calls for B.C. cities to waive development fees