By this time in 2022, shovels will be in the ground for Habitat for Humanity Ontario Gateway North’s affordable housing build in Bala, but until then the team is hard at work fundraising for the project.

They raised $8,200 Friday during a drive-by fundraiser in front of Habitat’s Retore in Bracebridge, bringing the not-for-profit’s fundraising total to just under $120,000 or the $216,000 goal that’s been set for the build. “You would be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t think we need more affordable housing in Muskoka,” Fundraising Chair Trisha Cowie tells the MyMuskokaNow.com newsroom. She says the fundraising effort will continue over the weekend with the money raised during the Moon River Property Owners’ Association’s Moon River Dock concert going to support the Bala build.

In April, the District of Muskoka agreed to cut a $155,300 cheque to help with the build. Habitat’s CEO Kimberly Woodcock said that the forgivable loan is structured so that the two homes are rented at a rate 20-percent below the average market rent in Muskoka for the next two decades. Data from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) shows that the average rent in Bracebridge, Gravenhurst and Huntsville is $1,080 as of August 2021. That means the apartments would have to be priced around If that number holds, the apartments would be priced around $865.

On top of the recent good news on the fundraising front, Woodcock says Muskoka Lakes council recently approved Habitat’s severance application. That will allow them to sell the two homes they’re building as individual semi-detached units. “Our mission is ownership,” Woodcock says. She explains they’re using a deferred homeownership plan, which means the homes will be affordable rentals at first before the renters are given the opportunity to buy the home. With the agreement with council, Habitat would be forced to build a single home instead of two.

The homes will be located at 1016 Elm Street in Bala. Woodcock says the plan is to break ground by spring 2022. Until then, Habitat will continue fundraising up until the day they put shovels in the ground, or they hit the fundraising goal.