Land hunt is on for Habitat for Humanity’s 2021 home

In this supplied photo, members of the Ortiz family and local dignitaries turn sod during a groundbreaking ceremony for the Habitat for Humanity Cornwall build on Eva Avenue on Thursday, July 9, 2020. Executive Director Leigh Taggart says they have put some feelers out but are still looking for land to build a home for the Leaf family in 2021. (Habitat for Humanity via Newswatch Group)

CORNWALL – The executive director of Habitat for Humanity says partnering with municipalities helps cover their single largest expense – land.

Speaking with Cornwall Newswatch, Leigh Taggart says the double-lot that was originally planned for a semi-detached unit on Eva Avenue in Cornwall ended up being used for a single family home for the Ortiz family because of building challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Habitat held a groundbreaking ceremony last month for David and Marta Ortiz and their four children. It’s the 15th home for the organization.

Using up that double-lot means the hunt is now on to find land for the Leaf family, who were going to be the Ortiz’s neighbours.

“We try to partner with townships and municipalities to get free land. That’s one of the biggest expenses when we’re building a house,” Taggart told Cornwall Newswatch, adding that they have paid up to $60,000 for a lot in the past. “Our focus now is building more houses in SD&G. The best way for us to do follow free land.”

Taggart says following municipal donations means there’s no formal rotating basis for home selection between Cornwall and the Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry.

“With the exception of next year because we have made a commitment the Leaf family. If they choose to look outside the City of Cornwall then we will try to appease them. They’ve been very patient and very understanding with us. We will try to take into consideration their preferences when it comes to land,” Taggart said.

As for choosing which family would receive this year’s build, Taggart says she spoke to both families and ask them to make their case. Each family said if the other one needed it more they could live in their current home for another year.

“These two families were going to be neighbours and instead of being neighbours they’ve now put the other ones needs ahead their own wants. It really spoke to the people, the families that they’ve chosen,” Taggart said.

The Leaf family will get a home in 2021 at a location to be determined.

As for the overall health of Habitat for Humanity, Taggart says they’ve “been able to weather it, in some cases, better than others” and the community has “done a phenomenal job” supporting local non-profit organizations.

“I’m quite confident that we’ll be okay by the end of the year.”