Habitat homeowners celebrate in Bed-Stuy

Recently, 16 families in Bedford-Stuyvesant received the keys to their new Habitat for Humanity homes.

The diversity of the latest crop of new home owning families is like a mini-United Nations. American citizens who emigrated from Poland, China, Mauritania, North Africa, Jamaica, Guyana, and Trinidad along with home grown New Yorkers were among those who cut the red ribbon at the doorway to their new homes. Three four-unit buildings on Lafayette St. near Nostrand and one on Hart St. are these additions to Habitat homes.

All these new homeowners meet federal guidelines for low-income families ($38,757 to $61,440 for a family of four). Putting in 300 hours per adult of “sweat equity” is a homeowner requirement.

Jamaican-born city bus driver Nicole Barrett surveyed her new three-bedroom apartment and glowed as she talked about tiling her own bathroom, part of her sweat equity. She is moving from her crowded mother’s apartment in Crown Heights to her own condo where she will live with Danielle, her 11-year-old daughter, and 10-month-old twins. Her father and sister helped in the home dedication.

Sweat equity was a family affair for the Diakite family–they hail from Mauritania, Africa. “We all worked,” said Dad, Yacounba, proudly smiling at his 20-year-old son, graduating high school senior Alioli, who said, “I put dry wall on the ceiling, painted, and took garbage out. I liked doing the flooring. I really learned a lot.” Mom Aminata worked in the office for her sweat equity requirement. Three-year-old daughter Kaedi completes the family.

Dad Yacounba said, “We are proud that we’re owning our own house. No more landlord worries that we’ll be kicked out.”

At the John Wesley United Methodist Church, a formal program was held prior to the ribbon cutting.

Encouraging families to get actively involved in their communities, Congressman Ed Townes told families “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

Borough President Marty Markowitz in congratulating families said, “You’ve worked really hard for this day and now you own a little piece of the Republic of Brooklyn, U.S.A.” The borough president then passed out voter registration cards.

Among his well wishes, Josh Lockwood, Habitat-NYC executive director, said: It is a time when we reflect on the journey we have taken together, a journey of friendship, sacrifice, challenges and joys.

The youngest of the children were honored to cut the main building ribbons; the Phillip family daughters cut the ribbon at 512 Lafayette and Juliet Smith’s daughter at 514 Lafayette.

More than 2,500 volunteers – from all sectors of New York City and all walks of life – joined these families to build their homes.

As first-time homebuyers, these families qualify for the State of New York Mortgage Authority (SONYMA) Habitat for Humanity Mortgage Program. Cash purchase prices for these homes start at $125,000 and average $183,125.

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