A local charity known for building homes for needy families has been kicked out of its national body.
Effective as of Oct. 1, Habitat for Humanity Prince George is no longer affiliated with Habitat for Humanity Canada and can no longer use the brand name. This includes operation of the ReStore on Queensway, which is a Habitat trademark.
The disaffiliation was the product of a Sept. 21 vote by Habitat for Humanity's national board of directors.
The charity has operated in Prince George since 2003 and has built six homes to date for seven families in need of housing, the most recent in 2012 on Juniper Street.
According to a Habitat for Humanity spokesperson, the Prince George group didn't fulfill responsibilities as outlined in the national bylaws or its own constitution and bylaws at the local level.
"These would include financial management, record keeping, [and] reporting other fiduciary responsibilities," said Antonietta Mirabelli, Habitat's vice-president of marketing and communications.
"The non-compliance to our standards puts Habitat's reputation at risk locally and nationally."
A combination of complaints received and issues discovered during the association's standards review program prompted a more thorough review of governance and operations, Mirabelli added.
A statement from Habitat for Humanity Canada's chief operating officer called the move "necessary."
"Sound operating practices are at the core of our association business and every home we build," said Mark Rodgers.
Problems within the Prince George organization have been ongoing, said Mirabelli, with the national body making a more concentrated effort to help address the issues since last September.
"When it became apparent that there was not sufficient progress in addressing the outstanding issues, the organization was put on probation commencing May 10, 2013," Mirabelli said.
The problems were said to be at an organizational level, and did not extend to physical issues with the homes built.
There are 66 Habitat for Humanity affiliates Canadawide and the decision to revoke one's membership isn't taken lightly, Mirabelli said.
"In almost 30 years, only one other affiliate has been involuntarily disaffiliated."
The move was one that took members of the Prince George group off guard.
Long-time board member Valerie Giles said the concern from the national body centred on policy development - specifically that the Prince George group didnt have formal ones they formulated themselves.
Last January, Giles stepped down from the board to help create and put into place a variety of policies that were passed on to the national group in the summer.
It is not right for them to accuse us of not complying or co-operating, she said, noting there was only one out of a long list of requirements that missed the deadline due to the extra work involved.
Giles praised the work of long-time executive director Jo-Ann Pickering, who was instrumental in getting the local affiliate off the ground a decade ago.
Apart from requiring that polices be formally created and put in place... the most consistent criticism was that Jo-Ann and I are both too old to be doing the administration work, said Giles, adding that theyve also been told their board isnt robust enough because there arent enough professionals who serve on it.
According to Mirabelli, the current local organization can't regain entry into the national body, but that doesn't mean others can't try their hand at it in the future.
"As we would entertain a request from any interest group in any Canadian community would also consider this for the Prince George community," she said.
All of the local group's assets will be transferred to the national body for distribution to other affiliates, said Mirabelli, an idea that didnt sit well with Giles.
According to public Canada Revenue Agency information for 2012, the charity has more than $1.8 million in total assets.
They employed six permanent full-time positions and had four part-time or seasonal employees to the tune of $155,630. Last year, Habitat for Humanity Prince George spent $276,421 on its charitable programs.
Last year Habitat Prince George purchased a lot at 1725 Fourth Ave. for $63,000 for its seventh build, but no construction has taken place.
We have acquired everything by local effort through revenues from our store operation, fundraising, applying for grants, and convincing organizations which we have involvement in to help us build homes, she said Giles. Weve spent a lot of time explaining over the last 10 years what Habitat is because, before we began home building activity here, it was not well known in this area.