Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Habitat for Cars not Humanity

I've been keeping my eye out for a piece of undeveloped land in inner-city Montreal for the last few months because Habitat for Humanity is on the lookout for a site to build it's next project.
Habitat  buys land and, using volunteer labour as well as funds and materials donated by corporate partners, build houses for people who might not otherwise be able to achieve the dream of home ownership. Each Habitat family must invest "sweat equity" in their home through volunteer labour. They also have to have the means to pay the mortgage once the house is built.
I wrote about Habitat's last build here.
I actually thought I'd hit the jackpot a few weeks ago when a 2,000-square-foot lot on a nice street in St. Henri came up for sale on the MLS. I quickly got the okay from H4H and raced to the owner's home to present the offer. The lot was right next door to their triplex, which was also for sale. I couldn't help but notice that the lot had a nice tree on it and thought how sad it would be to cut that tree down in order to build.
We came in at asking price and I did my best to pitch the merits of selling to a non-profit group already active in St. Henri. The plan was to build three units on the site. I had photos, brochures and a compelling story. It was all good. They didn't throw me out!
The next day the listing agent said that his clients' had received five offers on the property (after it had been listed for less than 48 hours) and had decided to take it off the market. I couldn't help but think that the owners tested the market in order to set a price for that piece of land. Their real hope was to sell it with their triplex. Whatevs.
Which brings me to today. Every morning I do a H4H search on the MLS. The criteria are specific. The price must be about $200.000, the land must be in an inner-city neighborhood with good public-transit access and local services. The lot has to be a minimum of 2,000 square feet, with the possibility of building three units.
This morning, I thought I'd hit the motherlode. A new listing for a lot in downtown Ville Marie borough popped up. Asking price - $42,000 plus QST and GST. Wow!
A closer look revealed that the listing was in fact for a parking spot in a downtown garage.  There are 25 of them for sale. Imagine that, some people can afford to spend nearly $48,000 for homes for their cars, while Habitat is down amongst the sofa cushions trying to scratch up the cash to build houses for people.
I wonder if we could build a house in a parking garage. . .

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