Families share ‘overwhelming joy’ at ribbon cutting for new affordable homes in Riverside

Two local families moved into brand new homes in Riverside this week, thanks to an affordable housing program — and their own hard work. Habitat for Humanity of Long Island — an independently-operated affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International — partnered with the Town of Southampton Housing Authority to build the two houses, which were unveiled at a ceremonial ribbon cutting Monday morning on Old Quogue Road in Riverside.

The partnership was made possible by Suffolk County’s 72-H program, through which the county transfers a foreclosed property to a town. The town then partners with a housing non-profit, the original structure is demolished and a new home is erected in its place.

Habitat for Humanity Long Island pays for the construction of the homes with help from corporate partners such as Riverhead Building Supply and Bank of America along with contributions from Island Outreach Foundation and private donors. The non-profit also hosts fundraisers throughout the year to raise money for affordable housing development.

Amanda Hoyos, who is 13 weeks pregnant, and her husband, Christopher Hoyos said the whole process, from receiving word that they had qualified for the program to participating in the construction has been “surreal” and that a sense of “overwhelming joy” washed over them as they looked at their new home.

“We’re still kind of amazed that we even got picked to be in this process,” Mr. Hoyos said.

To qualify for the home ownership program, applicants must meet various criteria, including maximum income limits, a demonstrated need for housing, steady employment and the ability to pay off loans. Participants must also contribute 300 hours of “sweat equity” towards the building of their future home, other program members homes as well as 42 hours of volunteering and community service. 

“It’s a dream come true definitely for my family,” said Sahlise Cherry, who along with her son and two daughters will be the Hoyos’ new neighbor in other HHLI home. “We’re beyond full of joy and excitement and we’re looking forward to being in our new home.”

Both homes have three bedrooms and two bathrooms and come equipped with appliances. Both homes’ pantries were stocked with generous donations by the Ladies Philoptochos of St. Johns Greek Orthodox Church in Blue Point.

The ceremonial ribbon cutting began with a welcome by Jimmy Jack, the new Chief Executive Officer of Habitat for Humanity of Long Island. “Habitat for Humanity is seeking Gods love in action and of course building homes of hope and today is really the culmination of the mission,” Mr. Jack said.

Local officials in attendance included Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman and representatives from the offices of Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming and New York State Assemblyman Fred Theile Jr.

 “A lot of people are talking about affordable housing,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “Talk is cheap, we’re actually doing something about it, we’re making it happen.”

Mr. Schneiderman said he was very proud to be a part of the event.

“From banging the nails, putting these homes up, to getting people to move in, it’s nice to see actually something being done because this is a crisis like we’ve never seen before, and our communities cannot sustain themselves without the very people we need to drive our ambulances or take care of patients at the hospital or teach our children. We have to do more, at least we’re doing something here today,” he said.

Jesse SanGiovanni and Allison Knapp of Island Outreach Foundation attended the ceremony as well as representatives from Riverhead Building Supply The ceremony ended with a blessing of both homes by Curtis Highsmith Jr., executive director of TSHA, and an ordained Deacon.

According to Habitat for Humanity of Long Island’s site supervisor, Emrah Hallaceli, they have already started work on two of four more affordable homes on neighboring Vail Avenue.