Photo by Michalea Kwoka-Coleman.
Four families will be moving into affordable, safe housing in Long Beach thanks to a development project sponsored by Habitat for Humanity of the Greater Los Angeles Area (Habitat LA).
Friday afternoon, Habitat LA officials gathered with Mayor Robert Garcia and other city officials, religious leaders, corporate sponsors and the Ortiz, Chavez, Hayes and Nall families to break ground on the construction site in the 1900 block of Henderson Avenue in the Washington neighborhood.
“Anytime we can work to create homeownership… is a great day for the city,” Garcia said to a crowd of about 30.
The single-family homes being built will be 1,300 square feet, with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, drought tolerant landscaping and handicap accessibility. The homes will also be ready for solar panel installations, which the families can have installed at no additional cost.
The majority of the material needed to build the houses is being donated by corporate sponsors, such as Whirlpool which will be providing each house with a stove and refrigerator.
Erin Rank, president and CEO of Habitat LA, said homeownership is important, as it brings stability to families.
“Starting with the children, you’ll see improvement in education,” she said. “The family has more of a sense of connectivity to the community, they get involved in things like neighborhood watch, the kids are more likely to go to college; if there were health issues in the family, like asthma, that were related to their housing, those issues clear up; the family's financial stability is increased and so they’re able to afford better foods.”
Rank said that this development project is just the beginning of a bigger initiative in Long Beach. Habitat LA expects to complete at least 54 new homes, as part of its $200 million plan to revitalize the area.
The Henderson Avenue plot was originally purchased by the city with former redevelopment money several years ago, according to Meggan Sorensen, development projects manager for the City of Long Beach Housing Services Bureau.
Sorensen said that last year, the city announced it would accept proposals for the properties which target homeownership. Habitat LA was the only group that replied.
Tiffany Ortiz, one of the homebuyers, said that her family is eager to work alongside Habitat LA staff and volunteers to build their future home.
“Today we are so ready to begin a new chapter in our lives,” the wife and mother of three said. “We have been counting down the days to this amazing moment.”
In order to be considered for Habitat LA’s homebuying program, families must fill out applications, attend community meetings, verify income and commit to “sweat equity.”
Rank said that sweat equity is a partnership commitment between Habitat LA and the families. Each family will donate up to 500 hours of their time to help build not just their own homes, but their neighbor’s as well.
Volunteers from community organizations, corporate sponsors and religious groups will also be helping with the construction.
“The four families will be building this whole community together, side by side,” she said. “They move in at the same time when their homes are finished, and then when they move in they pay an affordable mortgage payment back to Habitat for Humanity and we use those mortgage payments to then build the next homes.”
However, Rank said she worries for the future projects Habitat LA undertakes, as one-third of the group’s funding is due to be cut under President Trump’s proposed budget. Habitat LA has started a petition to urge members of Congress not to defund housing programs which benefit low-income families.
Garcia pleaded as well, calling the proposed funding cuts “obscene and disheartening.”