A new duplex in Whitehorse is making a big difference in the lives of two Yukon families. 

The building is the latest project from Habitat for Humanity. The buildings are largely built through volunteer labour and sponsors' contributions. 

Families are chosen through a selection process based on income, current living conditions and the ability to make payments on a mortgage. 

The families pay for their homes but don't pay interest. It's a way for those denied by banks to stop renting and start building equity. 

Jared MacNeil and his family are moving into one of the new homes. Just a few year ago, in 2011, he was employed but found himself live in a tent in Whitehorse. 

"I was at Robert Service [campground] at the time, just because the rental situation was insane," he recalls. 

That summer people set up a tent city on the steps of the legislative assembly to protest the lack of rental availability and prices. 

Now the MacNeil family — Jared, his wife Rhea and their two young children — are settling into their new home. It has a large backyard and a swing set for the children.

Rhea remembers getting the call from a Habitat for Humanity representative. 

Habitat for Humanity family 2

Jared MacNeil, right, says he knows how tough rental can be in Yukon. A few years ago he had to live in a tent at Robert Service Campground in Whitehorse. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

"I was freaking out and trying not to cry. It felt like we won the lottery or something. Even though we're still paying for the house it's still a blessing," she said.

The next-door neighbours are also paying an interest-free mortgage through Habitat for Humanity. 

Greg Carlick and Samantha Fleshman-Carlick moved in with their two young children. 

"I was at work and she called, freaking out 'we got the house," said Carlick. "I didn't know what to do!" 

Habitat for Humanity requires its tenants to provide "sweat equity" by helping to build their homes. 

Greg Carlick says he took two weeks off work to help with painting and finishing. 

The new duplex is the 17th and 18th project completed by the non-profit in Yukon.  

Habitat for Humanity

Volunteers were thanked for their contributions at an event on Thursday. (Philippe Morin/CBC)