Family of 4 moves from 2-bedroom apartment to 3-bedroom house
Sarah Law · CBC News · 

The Slater family celebrates getting the keys to their new Habitat for Humanity Thunder Bay home in northwestern Ontario. Parents Tyrell and Krystale Slater say they’re excited for their children, Kole and Payge, to have a backyard for the first time. (Sarah Law/CBC)

Krystale and Tyrell Slater say their children have never had a backyard before.

Now, the family of four is moving from their small apartment into a three-bedroom home in Thunder Bay, Ont. The bi-level house on the city’s southeast side is Habitat for Humanity Thunder Bay’s 39th build.

Habitat for Humanity offers eligible families interest-free mortgages with no down payment. In return, the families must spend at least 500 hours volunteering for the organization.

The house at 519 Hargrave St. is one of roughly 2,100 units the city hopes to see built over the next three years to meet its housing goals.

 The Slaters say it means the world to them.

“We were just in a small two-bedroom apartment and it’s getting crowded with two kids, a boy and a girl, and everybody’s kind of sharing everything,” Krystale said.

“We put in a lot of sweat and tears in this place and you know what? It shows, especially with how beautiful it is now.”

Lana Vukelic, CEO of Habitat for Humanity Thunder Bay, celebrates the organization’s 39th build in the city, at 519 Hargrave St. She says the next build will be the organization’s first net-zero home in Thunder Bay. (Sarah Law/CBC)

Lana Vukelic, chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity Thunder Bay, said the home ownership program offers a hand up rather than a handout.

“Renting is not affordable, but there’s a sustainability aspect with home ownership and that’s why we deal with home ownership. You build equity, you build a legacy for your family,” Vukelic said.

“It’s just a dream come true.”

Security of new space

Along with excitement and anticipation, there’s also a sense of relief for the family to be in a home where they feel secure. They’ve already met some of their neighbours and Krystale’s sister lives nearby.

“It’s going to be really nice to feel safe enough to let [the children] go out on their own and have their own space to play in and not worry about who’s going to come along,” she said.

“Having this property is gonna be a big difference for us.”

Payge, 7, and Kole, who turns 12 soon, are also eager to settle in. As friends, family members and neighbours toured the home Thursday morning, Payge was busy picking out her new bedroom.

The yard really impressed him because there’s apple trees and he loves apples, and then there’s bees and he loves bees — so I know he’s going to love it, too.– Krystale Slater

“My son [has] special needs, so he doesn’t express himself the same way typically, but I can tell he’s super happy and he’s relaxed,” said Krystale Slater.

“The yard really impressed him because there’s apple trees and he loves apples, and then there’s bees and he loves bees — so I know he’s going to love it, too.”

Building the home was no easy feat, but the Slaters say they learned a lot along the way and are grateful for the support of the volunteers.

“If there’s ever any issues, we might even know how to fix it ourselves at this point,” said Tyrell.

Urgent need for volunteers

This is Habitat for Humanity’s 30th year in Thunder Bay. The Canadian government spent $50,000 on the house to support Habitat for Humanity’s broader goal of building 1,117 affordable homes across the country.

The next local project, at 908 Alexandra St., will be the organization’s first net-zero home in the city.

“We’re environmentally conscious of our builds and this is going to be our first build with basically no carbon footprint,” Vukelic said.

Volunteers who worked on the latest Habitat for Humanity Thunder Bay build celebrate the family moving in. Jessica Sharpe, Ashley Rahmer-Anness and Selina Holliger are from left to right. (Sarah Law/CBC)

Construction on the Hargrave Street home began last summer. Vukelic said they had hoped to have it finished faster, but are in urgent need of more volunteers.

Jessica Sharpe, Krystale’s sister, and family friends Ashley Rahmer-Anness and Selina Holliger all helped with the build. As the Slaters were given the keys, all three teared up as they watched the children excitedly rush inside.

Sharpe said the rising cost of living and inflation has made it hard for working families to become homeowners.

“Without [Habitat for Humanity], I don’t think that my sister would have been able to purchase a brand new home, just the way the finances are in this world today.”

As the family begins to move in their belongings — and figure out what to do with their backyard — they say it’s hard to believe the house is theirs.

“It’s still surreal sometimes,” Tyrell. “We can say we are finally home.”


Sarah Law
Sarah Law is a CBC News reporter based in Thunder Bay, Ont., and has also worked for newspapers and online publications elsewhere in the province. Have a story tip? You can reach her at

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