Habitat for Humanity Thunder Bay broke ground on its first semi-detached home in more than a decade today.

"Usually we get donated or we purchase smaller pieces of land.  We're doing infill in different areas of the city so usually we have anywhere between a 25 and a 32-foot lot and that's not big enough to do a semi-detached on so we do single family dwellings,” said Habitat CEO Diane Mitchell.

The money for the semi-detached project was mostly raised by Thunder Bay Insurance and Gillons Insurance.

"Habitat approached us one time about helping out on a few builds,” said David Baxter, general manager of Gillons. “We did that and then when we were looking at what else could we do, we said 'we haven't built a house'."

The group raised more than $80,000 for the home located on the property on Hodder Avenue where one of the company’s veteran employees grew up.

Insurance broker Janis Whatley found herself selling her family's estate after both of her parents died within months of each other in 2007 and 2008.  She said that she and her siblings  decided to subdivide the property and sell one part as a separate lot.   

The process was finalized just as the Habitat was starting to scope out a location for the new home.   

"This is very nice and it's going to help a lot of people, and I know Habitat does wonderful things so it's very nice to be part of it,” Whatley said.

Habitat will give the families who move into the newly-built homes interest-free mortgages based on the fair-market value of their houses.  

They will pay them back at a rate not more than 25 per cent of their gross family income in mortgage and property taxes.  

Each family will also contribute 500 hours of "sweat equity" volunteering for Habitat, including helping build their own homes.

The families' names will be announced later in the year.

"They're very excited and they're so thankful to Thunder Bay Insurance for taking five years to raise the money to build this house,” Mitchell said.

The homes will be the 28th and 29th that Habitat has built in the Thunder Bay area.