Habitat for Humanity Heartland Ontario (HFHHO) is looking for applicants for a pair of single-family homes in St. Thomas.

The organization held a ground-breaking ceremony today in partnership with the city of St. Thomas where construction is underway on a new semi-detached home.

"A couple of years ago, city council declared a number of properties across the city as surplus to us," says St. Thomas city manager Wendell Graves.

"This particular site has been declared surplus. HFHHO approached us, we got it into their ownership and here we are putting shovels in the earth."

The build is taking place at the corner of Hiawatha and Scott Streets and is the 5th and 6th Habitat homes built in Elgin County.

"The home will be built to 25 per cent better energy efficiency than the building code, and 25 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions than standard home of its size," says George De Vlugt, general manager of construction for HFHHO.

HFHHO has five families currently in the queue, but they aren't done looking. Applications can be submitted on their website.

"These are individuals that are hard-working families looking for hand up not hand out, says Brian Elliot, ceo of HFHHO.

"They probably rent now or are in social housing. They might have the ability to afford more but may lack the down payment, or credit history. They are going to buy these homes at fair market value and make geared-to-income payments."

St. Thomas mayor Joe Preston is calling on the community to volunteer to help build the homes, along with the contractors who have donated labour and materials.

"The city has a pressing issue on housing, " says Preston.

"We say it's two homes, and two families, but someone is moving into where they are too. We recognize there is need for housing solutions in St. Thomas. We are pulling the plugs on everything. When HFHHO comes along we can smile because they've been successful building permanent homes in St. Thomas."

Framing on the homes will begin shortly with an expected completion date within 5-6 months. The new owners should be moved in by March of 2021.