Applicants sought for Habitat for Humanity homes in Riverside
Volunteers from the nonprofit Habitat for Humanity joined Southampton Town officials and other community partners on Tuesday for a ceremonial wall-raising in Riverside, marking the fourth in a series of six affordable homes being built in the community through a public-private partnership.
The 1,456-square-foot single-family house at 116 Vail Avenue in Riverside is the latest of the homes – all within walking distance of one another – that the Southampton Housing Authority is building through a partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Long Island, an independently-operated affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International.
With “each one of these wall lifts, words can’t form an expression about how powerful the reaction is to putting your own hands to the plow, lifting up a house, being part of the construction,” TSHA executive director Curtis Highsmith Jr. said after the event.
PHOTOS BY NICHOLAS GRASSO
Applications for the homes, which can be found on Habitat for Humanity of Long Island’s website, are being accepted until Feb. 28
The partnership is possible due to Suffolk County’s 72-H process, through which the county transfers a property foreclosed due to back taxes to a township. Then, the township partners with a housing nonprofit, the structure is demolished and a new home is erected.
“I don’t have to talk about the housing crisis, we all know about it,” Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said. “The very people that we need for our community to function are priced out of our community; the nurses, the school teachers, the bus drivers, the people who run the cash registers in the grocery stores that we depended on during the pandemic.”
In addition to its role in the partnership with the housing authority and Habitat for Humanity, Mr. Schneiderman said the town will also provide property tax relief for the family that eventually moves into the home.
“We’re going to continue to support the family, whoever ends up in this home,” he said. “They are a part of our community.”
PHOTOS BY NICHOLAS GRASSO
The families that will occupy these homes are first-time home owners who typically have community ties.
“It’s been our experience that most applicants usually apply in areas where they already live or where they have employment or where they have family or friends,” Mr. Highsmith said. “Most of them are individuals who moved out of town because it’s unaffordable to live and they were forced to relocate further west.”
The new homeowners will be responsible for one of two mortgages on their home. The first is a 30-year mortgage loan through a bank with a 2% interest rate, for which they are responsible for paying 30% of their household income, according to Diane Manders, the director of homeowner services for Habitat For Humanity of Long Island.
“The second is a note that we hold, and Habitat doesn’t collect on it as long as the homeowner stays in for 30 years,” she explained. “It pays itself off over time. There are no monthly payments on it, they only have to pay something back to Habitat if they sell.”
Homeowners are also responsible for completing 300 hours of “sweat equity,” by helping build their future home or another house in the program. They must also complete budgeting classes and volunteer for community service.
Before the wall was raised at 116 Vail Avenue, Bishop Harrison Hale, Mr. Highsmith’s uncle who grew up on Vail Avenue, addressed the crowd and led them through a prayer. He reminisced about how growing up in the area aided his development as well as that of his peers. He delivered his first sermon at a local church and recalls basketball players sharpening their skills at a local court.
“He’s the perfect example of why we do what we do,” Mr. Highsmith said of Mr. Hale. “Because you never know what will come out of the community we build in here.”
Ms. Manders said Habitat for Humanity is looking forward to not only raising walls on the fifth and sixth houses they will build in Riverside, but building on its partnership with Southampton Town and the housing authority.
“We’re looking at property a little further away to have eight [homes],” she said. “We’re hoping to do seven and eight and maybe even up to 12.”