Habitat for Humanity Yukon celebrates new homes

Under a blue sky in Whistle Bend, 10-year-old Baelean Butler rode his bike down his family’s driveway, while his sister, Leandra, sat on the porch eating an orange freezie.

Under a blue sky in Whistle Bend, 10-year-old Baelean Butler rode his bike down his family’s driveway, while his sister, Leandra, sat on the porch eating an orange freezie.

Wind chimes on the neighbouring house jangled in the breeze.

Jeff Wolsynuk and Tanya Butler stood in the street, all smiles, their 14-month old daughter toddling around in a sundress, as they watched a dedication ceremony for their new Habitat for Humanity Yukon home on Thursday afternoon.

The family moved into the duplex in January. Theirs is red, while the other side, home to another family, is dark green. Both have neat, white-framed windows and small trees and shrubs freshly planted out front.

“It’s meant the world,” Jeff said of the project, his arm around Tanya. They’d tried other options – trailers, low-income housing – but always struggled.

“It just sinks you, sinks you, sinks you,” he said. “The new market nowadays, the down payment is so hard to come up with.”

Habitat homes are built by teams of volunteers and financed with interest-free mortgages.

To qualify, families must have a need for affordable housing, be able to repay the mortgage and invest 500 hours of their own labour – what the non-profit calls “sweat equity” – into building the house.

Jeff, Tanya and their four children – Zahara Wolsynuk, Leandra Butler, Baelean and the toddler, Jemma Wolsynuk – spent time painting, helping with construction and making lunches for the volunteers.

When the project began, all that was on the lot was a big hole in the ground.

“Before the walls and all the drywall was put up, I enjoyed walking through the walls,” said Leandra, 12. “It was funny.”

The children have settled in well, Tanya said. Baelean has decorated his room with posters of Thor and the Vancouver Canucks. The family was able to customize the house as it was built, picking floors and paint colours.

“I’m very grateful,” she said.

Under a white tent, with several politicians and volunteers milling about, Habitat for Humanity Yukon president Arthur Mitchell said the homes are among the most energy-efficient in the territory.

The roofs feature solar panels, and the family’s power bill in the winter was $200 per month, including heat, Jeff said.

Mitchell thanked the volunteer teams, as well as the fifty-plus local sponsors who donated materials.

“All of these people are working for one reason and that’s to assist our families in moving from less-than-satisfactory living conditions, whether it be social housing, publicly rented housing, often overcrowded without sufficient bedrooms for their family to properly be housed,” Mitchell said.

“As we know, with the high price of housing and the high price of rent, what happens is families are going far above the 25 or 35 per cent guidelines for their rent and utilities. They end up removing money from their food budget and of course, any kind of extra-curriculars – sports, dance, art activities – fall by the wayside.

“The ability to expand one’s life beyond simply subsistence is a huge difference in breaking the cycle of poverty.”

John Roe, leader of the Canada Builds volunteer team, has been involved with Habitat for Humanity since 2004. He’s travelled all over the world, building homes in other countries. He volunteers because he wants to give back, he said.

Premier Darrell Pasloski also attended the dedication ceremony. The Yukon government has an ongoing partnership with Habitat; since 2005, it has provided land to build on.

“It is a very exciting day, especially for the families who have now moved in and have their own homes, which is truly something that everyone aspires to, is to be able to have a home, to be able to grow with their families,” Pasloski said.

These two Whistle Bend homes are the organization’s fifteenth and sixteenth builds in the territory. Construction is expected to begin soon on another, also in Whistle Bend.

The Butler and Wolsynuk family has settled into their new neighbourhood. They like to go for walks, and the pond nearby is one of their favourite spots.

“The mortgage will eventually pay out to having our own home,” Jeff said.

“It’ll be ours one day,” Tanya added with a smile.

Contact Rhiannon Russell at