A place to call home

Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk helps single mother achieve dream of home ownership

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On Jan. 19, Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk presented a local family with the keys to a home in Bellport. Mariela Calderon, a single mother, was presented with the keys to the home on Provost Avenue in Bellport. 

Lee Silberman, the chief executive officer and executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk, explained how Habitat for Humanity works to help community members. 

“Habitat is a hand-up; it’s not a handout,” Silberman said. “And we will be selling the house this afternoon to Mariela and her family, and we’re actually selling the house at full market value [$360,000].”

“In lieu of a down payment, Mariela is in the process of completing 300 hours of sweat equity. That’s basically giving up every Saturday for a year, either working on this house that’s been finished or any of the other homes that we have under construction in Suffolk County. We get grants for some of our homes. Mariela will be getting a mortgage through SONYMA. We are fortunate in New York that New York has its own mortgage organization, SONYMA, and Mariela will get a special Habitat mortgage: 2 percent, 30-year mortgage. And then the difference between the grant money and the mortgage money and the actual selling price, Habitat will put a soft second mortgage on the house. And that will get forgiven over the 30-year life of the mortgage.”

Silberman explained that individuals should not be spending more than 30 percent of their income for housing. He said in Suffolk County approximately 50 percent of all families are what is called a “housing burden,” in that they spend over 30 percent of their income on housing.

“And when someone is doing that, it means that there’s no money left over for things like health care expenses, car insurance, you name it,” Silberman said. “So, as part of the Habitat program, Mariela’s total expense—mortgage, taxes, and homeowners’ insurance—will be fixed into 30 percent of her income, leaving her and her family with the extra funds now.”

Brookhaven Town supervisor Ed Romaine, a champion of Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk, was also on hand at the home dedication ceremony to congratulate Calderon.

“When you look around and you think about our communities, Habitat is such a wonderful organization,” Romaine said. “Not only does it provide affordable housing, but it also helps rebuild communities. This house was a total rebuild. A total rehab. This was in terrible condition; Habitat came along, rebuilt this house, giving what I think is one of the best-looking houses on this block to a family and at an affordable price and working with a whole group of people.”

Silberman noted that Calderon had applied four times for the Habitat of Suffolk program, and it was her perseverance that eventually allowed her to work with the organization. Calderon had been living in her parents’ home with her children and other relatives, and more recently had been living in a crowded residence with her two daughters. 

“Being able to be part of the process of building my home and helping other Habitat families build their house has been a great and rewarding experience,” said Calderon. “I was filled with joy just thinking about the day we would move into our forever home. Habitat [of] Suffolk changed our lives for the better. Now we are going to have the chance to have our own space, just for our little family.”

Before opening the house for the small crowd that had come to the dedication ceremony, Chris McNamee, the director of construction at Habitat of Suffolk, blessed the house and said a prayer.

“Today’s event was another example of our strong commitment to assist Long Islanders in need of affordable housing, and observing the Calderon family’s happiness today reinforces our unwavering mission to help others,” said Silberman of the event. 

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