COURTENAY, B.C. – There were tears, laughter and prayer at the Habitat for Humanity build site on Lake Trail Road, as two Comox Valley families received their keys and stepped through the doors of their homes for the first time.

Those involved in the project huddled under a tent during Habitat for Humanity Vancouver Island North’s (VIN’s) key ceremony.

With the help of volunteers and donors, Habitat for Humanity builds affordable homes for local families.

Habitat homeowners volunteer up to 500 hours and pay an interest-free, affordable mortgage – geared to their income – to buy their home.

The affordable mortgage payments go into a revolving fund that allows Habitat for Humanity to build more homes and provide more people with affordable home ownership opportunities.

“We are providing a safe, decent, affordable place today for these families, to raise their families, and to call this community home,” Habitat For Humanity VIN executive director Pat McKenna said.

“And soon they’ll have eight more neighbours beside them. But today is for them. Today is for these families. Today is a long journey for them. It’s taken them a long time to get here. There’s a lot of blood in there, a lot of sweat.”

McKenna noted that the homes are volunteer-built, led by great people, “and today we have awesome families who are joining us.”

This year marks the first phase of construction at 1330 Lake Trail Road in Courtenay, for an affordable housing development which will eventually be home to 10 families.

The goal is to have 40 homes built for by the end of 2020.

It also marks the first time the organization has held a dedication in Courtenay since 2014.

Habitat also recognized the volunteers and community sponsors who made the homes possible.

This is the first year in their 14-year history that Habitat built in two communities at the same time, so they hosted two key ceremonies, with the second held at 477 Hilchey Road in Campbell River on Dec. 12.

McKenna said affordable housing is in a crisis.

“I think it’s so important that municipalities are aligned and fighting (for) affordable housing, and creating affordable housing and bringing it on stream with great developers who are willing to build, and just great relationships,” McKenna said.

“I think those relationships are getting stronger and stronger every day.”

McKenna said there is a “continuum” of affordable housing that needs to get built to serve all of the Comox Valley.