New homeowners celebrate good fortune, hard work

March 16, 2007
By

JOHN SWAN


Gazette Photo by John Swan
Teronda Ellis from the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation presents welcome baskets to new homeowners Jaime and Rosana Rivera during a house warming party at the Nate Smith House March 10.

HYDE/JACKSON SQ.—Some of the 11 first-time homeowners of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation’s (JPNDC) Hyde/Jackson Homes scattered site development gathered to celebrate their good fortune
during a housewarming at the Nate Smith House March 15.

All the new owners were winners of a lottery held last July with 180 applicants for the 11 affordable, newly built houses priced between $151,500 for townhouses to $340,000 for duplexes.

“I’m really proud of all of you,” said Teronda Ellis from the JPNDC. “I know it took a lot of work for you to do this and that the waiting period was challenging. It means so much to us to see you here at the finish line.”

“I’ve wanted my own house for a long time, and this is a dream come true,” said Tracy Moore, 28, who has moved into her new house on Armstrong Street with her daughter and two nieces. “When I turn the key and open the door I have the feeling for the first time that it’s all mine.”

Moore, a health coordinator at the Crispus Attucks Center, said when she heard about the lottery she decided to put her name in and see what happened. “It’s so hard to buy a house in Massachusetts. This is the only way for someone like me to ever have a chance.”

But Moore also said she’s learning the responsibilities of home ownership, like clearing the snow and ice. “The kids realize it’s their own home, too. They have their own rooms and can choose the colors, but they know they also have to be careful not to scratch the floors and turn off the lights. It’s a good lesson that I hope prepares them for ownership when they grow up.”

One side effect of home ownership, Moore said, is that she feels connected to the neighborhood and has decide to run for a spot on the JP Community Centers board of directors.

“I feel I now have a vested interest, and want to do something to help seniors and kids have positive things to do,” she said.

“I’m still dreaming. I can’t believe it,” said Rosana Rivera, 41. “I never thought we’d ever be able to afford a house in JP.”

“I’ve been a renter all my life, so this is a new experience,” added her husband, Jaime Rivera, a lab worker and also 41. “It’s great to have our own place instead of relying on a landlord.”

The couple moved into a Paul Gore Terrace duplex that they share with Jaime’s mother in February.

“It’s great she has the other unit because she was really the one who initiated this after looking for a market-rate place. We went through a lot to get here, but once we saw the house we knew it was just what we wanted.”

Rosana admitted home ownership “is kind of scary at first. There’s a lot of responsibility.”

“I actually feel proud that I can now contribute something back to the state when we pay the property taxes,” said Jaime. “And where possible, I hope other such programs will also help keep more JP residents here. This is our dream come true.”

Kisha Smith, a bus driver for the MBTA, said she took the prerequisite first-time buyer’s class in 2001 but only recently was able to save enough money to qualify.

“I knew the perfect house would come up someday if I hung in there. It was tough looking on the open market. Then I got a call and was told I was number 30 out of 11. But I guess some other people dropped out, because we were offered a house on Grotto Glen Road.

“I’m so ecstatic. My goal was to own a house before I was thirty,”
said Moore, 28. “I also think the program is a good model for my two kids [ages 6 and 7]. They love their new house. We have a yard and a park across the street. I can sit on the front porch and watch the ball games.

“But it’s a little overwhelming, too. This is a responsibility I haven’t had before,” she said. “But I know I can do it now. I’m just happy the city and the JPNDC has this program. We need more of them so other people can have a chance at the American dream.”

The other sites are located on Chestnut Avenue, Ashley Street, Gay Head Street and Round Hill Street.

JPNDC Executive Director Richard Thal agreed about the need. “There’s no end to the demand for affordable housing in a neighborhood where the median single-family home is about $500,000,” he said.

“This project was especially sweet,” he added, “because the sites were vacant, city-owned lots that were too difficult for most commercial contractors to build on.”

But even though Thal said Boston “is making a strong commitment to affordable housing, surrounding towns are doing all they can to resist building any themselves.”

He also noted the federal government has been slashing affordable housing funds for decades, with those making the top 20 percent of income getting $92 billion in tax breaks, while the bottom 20 percent got $34 billion.

Thal went on to say he’s planning to attend an inaugural convention of community development corporations from across the country in Washington, D.C. soon to push for some initiative to fund more affordable housing.

“With some Massachusetts congressmen in positions of power now, perhaps we can finally get something done. We think if we can get the facts out and have people tell their stories, we can make this an issue in the next election,” he said.