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December 16, 2014 Community, Family

Just in time for Christmas, a new home

Tears streamed down Rhonda Moore’s face on Monday when she received the keys to her newly-renovated house.

Affordable–housing proponent organization Habitat for Humanity is battling overt gentrification one house at a time, and with Monday’s dedication of an affordable–home dwelling in Point Breeze, it is showing there is still room for living–wage housing amid a real estate boom enveloping the neighborhood.

The dedication comes two years after Moore, Roberto Bonfante and their three children entered Habitat’s homeownership program. They’ve now finished their required 350 hours of sweat-equity work building and repairing other families’ homes and attending homebuyer education workshops.

Now it was their turn to be rewarded.

“It has been a wonderful, wonderful experience, and this past year has been life changing,” Moore said from in front of her ribbon–adorned home. “But it happened quicker than I could have imagined. I was at the ground breaking in March and at the builder’s challenge in July and now it’s December and my house is ready.

“How special is that?”

But wait. There were more surprises.

Several members of the Philadelphia Eagles also turned out for the opening. They included quarterback Mark Sanchez, linebacker Connor Barwin and lineman Beau Allen. Also on hand were Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and other sponsors of the effort.

Habitat for Humanity Spokeswoman Corrine O’Connell said the project — one of six in the Point Breeze section Habitat for Humanity has purchased and intends to sell at a livable–wages rate — wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, whose second councilmanic district includes Point Breeze and Greys Ferry neighborhoods.

“Councilman Johnson’s staff has been terrific through this whole process, and he has been [a] tremendous advocate and supporter of the work we do,” O’Connell said. “We are dedicating one [on Monday], and anther house on Saturday. So there will be two families in their homes by Christmas, and that was the goal all along.”

Families who are selected for our program partner with our donors and volunteers to build decent, affordable homes. Families work for 350 sweat equity hours on their own house or other Habitat houses in lieu of a down payment and to earn a no–interest mortgage.

Habitat works with all types of families, but a typical partner family is a hardworking single parent of three, earning between $25,000-$35,000 a year. To qualify as a partner family with Habitat Philadelphia, a family has to be able to pay a mortgage; demonstrate need for housing; and partner with Habitat Philadelphia through the sweat equity process to purchase their home.

O’Connell said Point Breeze is rapidly changing and real estate values are skyrocketing, making it even more important there is room for middle-class, working families.

The GM Foundation and the Philadelphia Eagles were just two of the many organizations that either funded the project or supported it through other means.

“For Habitat, it’s important to have affordable home ownership preserved in the community where vulnerable working class families have a place to call home,” O’Connell said. “So when someone buys from Habitat, they are joining a wider community of hardworking people who care about the neighborhood and want to see it prosper.”

Even though the family has finished their sweat equity hours, Moore and her husband will continue volunteering at their Point Breeze home-building project, getting to know their future neighbors and donating the extra hours to other partner families to help them reach the 350–hour mark.