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Habitat for Humanity Canada parts ways with Habitat Kamloops chapter

Habitat Canada said Habitat Kamloops — which is the subject of lawsuits — has failed to meet required high standards
Four new homes in Blind Bill are being sold by Habitat for Humanity Kamloops. Habitat is a charity that builds home for those in need, with the eventual occupants helping in the construction phase.

Habitat for Humanity Canada’s National Board has voted to disaffiliate Habitat for Humanity Kamloops effective Thursday (Oct. 13).

According to a release, the disaffiliation requires the non-profit organization, which has been operating as Habitat for Humanity Kamloops, to immediately cease using the Habitat for Humanity brand, including removing the Habitat name and logo from all of its social media accounts, advertising and other assets.

The release states Habitat Kamloops has failed to adhere to the national organization’s high standards, but does not specify the manner in which Habitat Kamloops has not done so.

KTW has learned Habitat for Humanity Kamloops is privately selling four new homes in Blind Bay, as opposed to the homes being sold to families in need, but it’s not clear if the listings are outside its mandate or if it is the reason for the disaffiliation from the national office.

Homes built by Habitat are sold to families who are chosen from applications to buy the residence. Those families help with construction. The sales are at current market value, with special conditions, including no down payment, an interest-free mortgage that is carried by Habitat and a buy-back provision if the homeowner decides to sell. Homeowners are also responsible for paying property taxes and strata fees and covering maintenance costs.

The release said Habitat for Humanity Canada has been working with the now former affiliate, Habitat for Humanity Kamloops, over the past year to help the organization meet the national body’s mandatory standards through a defined process, but Habitat Kamloops was unable to meet these standards.

“As a charitable organization committed to providing safe and affordable housing to families living with low income, Habitat for Humanity holds itself to high operational and governance standards,” Habitat Canada director of communications Sarah Austin said in the release. “Each of the 48 local Habitat for Humanity organizations in Canada operate independently as separate non-profit organizations under the oversight of their own board of directors, but they must adhere to these high standards. When they fail to do so, they compromise Habitat’s ability to serve families and maintain trust with community stakeholders, which is critical for Habitat affiliates to continue making a positive impact. Habitat for Humanity Canada has been working with the former affiliate, Habitat for Humanity Kamloops, over the past year to help the organization meet Habitat for Humanity Canada’s mandatory standards through a defined process. However, the former affiliate was unable to meet these standards.”

In August, Habitat for Humanity Kamloops executive director Bill Miller told KTW the organization was not in financial trouble, despite the fact it is the subject of numerous civil lawsuits, with some $400,000 being sought between three actions launched this year.

According to online court documents in August, the society was being sued for $19,000 by A&R Site Services for an outstanding bill. It was also being sued for $12,000 by a former employee and for $375,000 in connection with unpaid monies in an asset purchase agreement.

“I’m not going to debate what our legal issues are in the news,” Miller told KTW in August, adding that there are bound to be some disputes with contractors and suppliers for an organization that undertakes millions of dollars worth of construction.

“And that’s exactly what’s going on,” he said. “And we will prevail. I have no concerns about that at all.”

According to court documents, A&R Site Services filed a notice of claim against Habitat Kamloops on July 13 for $19,020.76 in connection with an alleged unpaid bill in Blind Bay, where A&R said it was hired to prepare a number of construction sites for homes for Habitat Kamloops.

A certificate of judgment was issued on Aug. 10, enforcing the judgment to receive payment against the debtor as there was no response to the notice of claim.

Habitat Kamloops was also issued a notice of claim by Angler’s Distribution in April, seeking a remaining $375,000 owing, and other legal costs, stemming from a December 2020 asset purchase agreement.

The documents stated Habitat bought fishing and other miscellaneous inventory from Angler’s Distribution of Vernon for more than $1.2 million — $743,560 in the form of a charitable donation tax receipt and $485,000 in cash via an $85,000 deposit and four quarterly $100,000 payments.

The claim stated Habitat Kamloops paid the initial deposit, but just one $25,000 instalment since May 2021.

In a June response, Habitat Kamloops admitted it had only paid those amounts, but claimed that over the spring and summer of 2021, it had been in discussions with Frank Roy, Angler’s Distribution’s former chief executive officer, regarding amending the agreement, but he died in October 2021.

The response stated Habitat Kamloops promised to repay the agreed amount, but that it has an oral forbearance agreement postponing payments, which precludes the plaintiff’s ability to enforce the original agreement.

After closing its North Shore ReStore this past summer, Miller told KTW the organization was in a period of transition.

The ReStore is a home and building supply store that provides a source of revenue for the charity, which was created to build homes for people in need, with the occupants pitching in with sweat equity.

In a release, the local organization said the decision came down to a downturn in the economy, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the shifting of consumer shopping habit impacts. Major donations and local drop-offs had declined, the release stated. In addition, Habitat for Humanity Kamloops said it had faced challenges with multiple break and enters, broken windows and issues of people sleeping in doorways and camping on the property at Eighth Street and Tranquille Road.

Miller said the ReStore was moved to Salmon Arm. It is in the Salmon Arm area — in Blind Bay — where four new homes are being sold on the private market by Habitat for Humanity Kamloops.

Miller told KTW this past summer that the organization was looking at an alternative home ownership model, focusing on multi-family development opportunities and mulling a rental program.

“There’s a lot of impacts to what we’re doing and how we do it,” Miller said. “The models have to change.”

Austin of the national; Habitat office said that while disaffiliation means Habitat for Humanity is no longer operating in the communities served by the former affiliate, the national office is exploring ways it can continue to serve the communities.

Habitat for Humanity Kamloops operates in Kamloops, Princeton, Lytton, Lillooet, Merritt, Prince George, McBride, Lumby, Enderby, Armstrong, Salmon Arm, Cache Creek, Williams Lake, 100 Mile House, Quesnel and Revelstoke.

KTW has calls in to Austin and Miller for more information and is awaiting replies.