'They've always wanted their own rooms': dad and 2 kids prepare to move into Habitat home

This winter, Todd Gauthier he and his daughters Chloie and Carmin will move into a new 850-square-foot home on Lyle Street in St. James, built by Habitat For Humanity volunteers.

Families begin to take possession of 21 homes built by volunteers this summer in Winnipeg

Chloie and Carmin Gauthier have already moved 3 times in their lives. On Dec. 1, they'll move into a new family home in St. James, built by Habitat for Humanity volunteers. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

As a father of two girls, Todd Gauthier says he always wanted each of his daughters to have a room of their own.

Living in apartments, that wasn't easy. But his home-buying efforts were stymied by what he describes as a combination of bad credit, the high cost of available housing and an inflexible financial industry that wouldn't let him take a shot at purchasing a fixer-upper.

"My credit was really horrible and over the last five to 10 years, I've been trying to correct my mistakes from the past. I got it up to a degree where I was potentially able to get a home, but [in] the price range I could afford, the banks turned down a lot of the houses because they deemed them not livable," said Gauthier, a bricklayer by trade who conducts home renovations on the side.

"To me, they were livable. I guess the banks feel they need to have their butts covered."

This winter, Gauthier won't have to worry about banks covering any aspect of his anatomy. On Dec. 1, he and his daughters Chloie and Carmin will move into a new 850-square-foot home on Lyle Street in St. James, built by Habitat For Humanity volunteers.

The Gauthiers are the first family to take possession of one of 21 homes built by the non-profit organization in Winnipeg this year, entirely through the efforts of volunteer labour, sponsorships and other donations.

"It was amazing how many people were here and just how fast everything went up," said Gauthier, referring to hundreds of volunteers, including former U.S. president Jimmy Carter. 

Gauthier also worked as part of the home-building effort.

"It was pretty awesome to be able to do it," he said, adding he has spent most of his life in St. James and wanted to remain in the west side of the city.

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter helped build this home on Lyle Avenue. (Gary Solilak/CBC)
Gauthier and his daughters, both under the age of 10, have moved three times in an effort to find acceptable housing. Their fourth move into their brand-new home in St. James will be their last, he said.

"One of my major goals was to try to get into a home and own something and way in the future, to give them something, when that sad day happens," said the 37-year-old, referring to a time when he won't be around to take care of his kids.

"Living in an apartment and renting, you give away your money and you don't own."

Gauthier said rising house prices are making it more difficult for younger people to ​own their homes. So is a lack of affordable housing, he suggested.

"I hope something's set up in a way that there's not too many apartments being converted into condos any more. I think that's kind of sad."

Mayor Brian Bowman, who watched Gauthier receive the keys to his new home, said the best thing Winnipeg can do to assure homes remain affordable is to keep property taxes low.

Bowman has promised to limit the city's property-tax hike to 2.33 per cent for a fourth straight year on Wednesday, when he presents the first draft of Winnipeg's budget for 2018. The mayor said while Winnipeg does not suffer from the same housing pressures that afflict more expensive cities such as Vancouver and Toronto, there remains a shortage of affordable housing in the Manitoba.

"It is more acute in some cities, but that doesn't make it less acute for the affected families that are here in our city," Bowman said.

Todd Gauthier said he was able to cobble together down payments to purchase homes, only to have banks reject the financing. (Gary Solilak/CBC)
Gauthier said he's excited to invite people into his new home, help his daughters plant flowers and vegetables in a garden next spring and visit parks near his new home.

He said he also has some work to do before his daughters each have a living space of their own.

"They want to have bedrooms in the basement, so I'll have to do some more work," he said. "They've always wanted their own rooms ... they're very excited."​