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Success Stories

See how hard work and your support can change New Yorkers’ lives.
Sheree and Julian W.

For Sheree and Julian, Sydney House is perfect – their chance to own a piece of the borough they love.

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Sheree and Julian W.

Sheree and Julian W.

Sheree and Julian both grew up in the Bronx, not far from their new home at Sydney House. Not to be left out, the couple’s four-year-old daughter, Sadie, was born in the borough too! They didn’t want to leave their hometown, but as the family grew and rental costs in the Bronx rose faster and faster, they were facing the possibility of being forced out of the borough they love.

The family enjoys reading and experiencing the outdoors together – they love the Bronx for its beautiful outdoor spaces and hiking trails! Julian is an industrial engineer for UPS, creating the daily schedule for the operation and flow of packages. Sheree is a dietitian who ensures residents receive optimal nutrition at a local nursing home. Sadie is a student who loves to be outside as much as her parents. The family lived in the same one-bedroom apartment for more than two decades, prior to moving into Sydney House.

The building is nice – quiet and clean – but it’s not theirs. It’s not forever. It’s not permanent. Sheree and Julian knew they wanted to buy a home – they even got pre-approved for a mortgage prior, but they never made an offer on a home because they wanted to pay down some other debts first. But they never stopped dreaming of a home.

As they scanned the City’s Housing Connect website one day, they saw Habitat NYC’s Sydney House co-op. It’s in the Bronx, and even in the same neighborhood Julian and Sheree grew up! It was perfect – their chance to own a piece of the borough they love. They started saving, and were soon accepted into Habitat NYC’s Home Purchase Program.

The family is so excited to provide a stable home for Sadie, and yes, Sydney House is close to a variety of the Bronx’s best outdoor activities!

Shakelah S.

"[I'm excited to] have a sense of security that I can provide for my daughter"

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Shakelah S.

Shakelah S.

Shakelah S. is an accountant, but two things in her life were not adding up.

First, she and her five-year-old daughter Camryn, who loves to dance, play piano, read, and (surprisingly!) do chores, were cramped into a shared room at Shakelah’s aunt’s home.

Secondly, even if Shakelah wanted to buy a home in the Bronx, the borough where she was born and raised, “Looking to purchase in New York City seemed impossible. Such a high cost,” Shakelah told us.

Shakelah and Camryn have lived with family for more than a decade – Camryn’s whole life! – but the family of two have totally outgrown the space. Their home is lovely, a private house within walking distance of grocery stores and transportation, but it’s not theirs. Sometimes there’s irritating noise, and it can be difficult for Camryn to focus on reading or on her piano practice.

If buying a home in New York City, her hometown, was a problem, Shakelah wouldn’t stop until she had solved the equation. “Being a Bronx native, I know firsthand, the cost of living is beyond what many can afford,” she said. Shakelah looked on the City’s Housing Connect affordable housing website, and saw an ad for Habitat NYC. Hmm… perhaps this would help crack the problem wide open!

Shakelah applied, and soon received an email saying she had been selected! This accountant had all the paperwork ready, and submitted it, getting on the path of Habitat Homeownership. She is excited to “have a sense of security that I can provide for my daughter.”

Finally, all the numbers are falling right into place. Shakelah’s new place in Sydney House.

Renee N.

"Owning a home is important to me because it gives me the chance to leave something for my son when he gets older"

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Renee N.

Renee N.

Renee N. likes to help people feel better – that’s why she works in patient accounts in a medical center, why her hobbies are fashion and hair styling, and why she is working hard to buy a stable home for her son, Nathaniel. 

Renee, a Queens native who has lived in the Bronx for more than 10 years, shares a one-bedroom apartment with her son, the quarterback of his high school football team. The space is pretty cramped, and it can be hard for Nathaniel to find a place to study, but the family makes it work. The building is in good condition, and it’s close to a park and a few grocery stories – fewer now than before COVID, though. But it’s just not theirs. 

Renee had never tried to buy a home in the city before. She took a chance on Habitat NYC after seeing it on Facebook and watching Habitat NYC’s YouTube videos of Habitat Homeowners talking about how applying was the best decision they had ever made. 

And now, she and Nathaniel are on the path of becoming Habitat Homeowners themselves! Renee is most excited to, “have a place where I can say, ‘It’s mine.’ No more renting. Owning a home is important to me because it gives me the chance to leave something for my son when he gets older.”

Renee worked hard, maintaining good credit, taking Homebuyer education classes and completing her sweat equity hours. All the hard work will be worth it, because she knows Nathaniel will feel better once they are truly in a home of their own. The first thing Renee will do in their new home? “Take a deep breath and cry happy tears.” Because owning a piece of her city will make Renee feel better too.

Michelle and Wayne S.

Michelle and Wayne want to provide a legacy to their daughters – something that they own, something secure and stable, something that’s really theirs.

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Michelle and Wayne S.

Michelle and Wayne S.

Michelle and Wayne S. both grew up in Jamaica. Michelle works for the City of New York, while Wayne works with individuals with developmental disabilities. They have two daughters, Taliyah who is 18 and just graduated from high school and Tove’ who is six and has a very vivid imagination. Taliyah loves to hang out with her friends, and Tove’ likes to build (hey, we’ve got that in common!) draw and go to the beach with her family. Michelle recently learned to crochet.

The family have lived in the same three-bedroom apartment for 10 years. The apartment suits their needs, is close to public transit, the grocery store and the park, and the family always feels safe inside their home. However, it’s not always easy for the girls’ to find a quiet place to focus on their schoolwork and the family doesn’t feel safe outside their home. Michelle and Wayne want to provide a legacy to their daughters – something that they own, something secure and stable, something that’s really theirs.

Michelle and Wayne had never tried to purchase a home before, but after seeing an advertisement for the Habitat NYC Home Purchase Program, they attended a Habitat NYC information session. Michelle and Wayne liked the affordable prices and the sweat equity portion of the process. They decided to apply for the Home Purchase Program through the lottery process, and, as luck would have it, were selected for an apartment in Sydney House!

The family can hardly wait to complete the Home Purchase Program and move into their home. The first thing they will do when they move in is celebrate all the hard work they have put into this dream of stability and security.

Luke S.

"Who knows, down the line, this apartment may be a great place for a small family."

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Luke S.

Luke S.

Luke S. is ready for some roots! The Ohio native has lived more than 10 places in the past decade, and has called New York City his home since 2016. He currently lives with two roommates – well, three if you count Gaillo the dog – in a two-bedroom apartment. It’s pretty cramped for three guys and a dog, the back door to the building is always blocked with garbage and Luke’s room doesn’t get any sunlight. Thankfully, he lives near parks and other open space. And, since COVID-19 hit, Luke’s roommates haven’t always been strict about social distancing, and that worries him.

Luke, who works for a Manhattan Community Board, is also an avid artist and biker. He loves his job – working with different government agencies and helping to resolve constituent complaints – and his adopted city. That’s why he wants to buy a home in the city. “Housing Connect [The City’s affordable housing website] has almost become my homepage at times, as I’ve looked for a place where I can establish roots in this city,” he told us.

Luke has known about Habitat for Humanity for a long time – his brother even volunteered with Habitat in Kentucky.

A stroke of luck had Luke finding out about Sydney House, the 56-unit co-op that will be his future home, just in the nick of time. “I remembered finding out about this Habitat for Humanity opportunity very close to the deadline,” he said. “I got my application date stamped on the very day of the deadline, so this definitely feels like a lucky lottery type of situation I’m incredibly grateful for.”

He’s looking forward to establishing strong roots in Sydney House, both professional and personal. “I am looking forward to applying to be a Bronx CB12 Community Board member,” he said. But on a more personal note, “Who knows, down the line, this apartment may be a great place for a small family.”  

Kendall H.

For Kendall, owning a home will "break generational curses."

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Kendall H.

Kendall H.

Kendall H. is ready to be out on his own.

Kendall, a Brooklyn native who loves baseball and motivational speaking, and works for a non-profit organization, has lived with his mother in a NYCHA apartment his entire life. The family works hard to get by, but it can be paycheck to paycheck. They aren’t too crowded, but sometimes there’s loud, irritating noise, it can be hard to focus, and Kendall doesn’t always feel safe in the apartment. Kendall is ready for his own place. As he says, owning a home will “break generational curses.”

Kendall had never thought about buying a home before, Until he heard from a friend, Jaron M., a Habitat NYC Homeowner in the Dean Street Condominiums, who suggested that he apply for the Home Purchase Program. Here was the chance to get a place of his own. Happily, he was accepted into the program and is now on his way to becoming a Habitat Homeowner too!

He’s most excited about “not have to stress about the everyday struggles of not having access to affordable housing.”

Kendall is all about community. He has attended community events and volunteered in his current community, and he decided to apply for the Sydney House co-op because he wanted to “contribute to the community.” Finally, he can join the community he’s always wanted to – a community of homeowners.

Keisha M.

Keisha longed for that sense of stability and security that owning a home provides.

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Keisha M.

Keisha M.

Keisha M. does not give up easily. She didn’t give up when she and her daughter Sade left their home of Jamaica and immigrated to the United States in 2004, and she would not give up on her dream of owning a home in New York City. Perhaps that determination is what inspired Sade to graduate college, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sade is looking for work now, and hopes to go onto Graduate and Law School.

Keisha and Sade currently live in an apartment with Keisha’s parents, Amoy and Hector. The home is comfortable and safe, close to parks and the grocery store, and the landlord keeps it in good condition. But it’s just not Keisha’s. Owning a home is part of her long-term plan – she dreamt and prayed about it, and, as we know, Keisha doesn’t give up. She longed for that sense of stability and security that owning a home provides.

She had always known about Habitat for Humanity, but it wasn’t until she heard about Sydney House and the application process at her church did she seriously consider applying for the Home Purchase Program.

Those dreams and prayers are coming true. Keisha didn’t give up, not once, on her dream of homeownership, and soon, she will be one of the Habitat Homeowners in Sydney House. When we asked Keisha what steps she took to become a Homeowner, she told us, “It was plain determination and so I worked hard to achieve what at times seemed impossible.”

Now, Keisha’s dreams have changed. No longer does she dream of owning a theoretical home, but she dreams of the day she will finally get the keys and walk into her apartment in Sydney House. Sade says that the first thing she should do is, “Kiss the hardwood floor.”

Jose S.

Jose read the stories of other Habitat Homeowners...And now, he is one of the Homeowners whose stories inspired him.

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Jose S.

Jose S.

Jose S. shares our mission – he works to build a better city! As an engineering technician with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, he travels around the Bronx, inspecting catch basins (water drains in the ground) and making sure that water doesn’t pool on our streets, causing dangerous conditions for everyone.

Unfortunately, our city has not helped Jose build a better life for himself. Jose, who grew up in the Bronx and loves baseball, has lived in a one-bedroom apartment with four family members for 13 years. It’s very cramped, and as the family grew up, they had an increasingly hard time finding a quiet moment to themselves. Jose has looked into moving out, whether in a rental or to a home he owns, but the prices are out of his range.

He found Habitat NYC by doing some internet research. He read the stories of other Habitat Homeowners, and he related to their journeys. He knew Habitat was the program for him, after checking to make sure his income qualified him for the program, of course. And now, he is soon to be one of the Habitat Homeowners whose stories inspired him.

Jeremy D.

"Finally feeling like I am home."

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Jeremy D.

Jeremy D.

Jeremy D. hasn’t felt at home for more than 20 years. He grew up in rural Rensselaer County, New York (near Albany), where, as someone with a disability that doesn’t allow him to drive, he had a tough time getting around. Once he began visiting the City, he realized that he could live here car-free. But being in the City hasn’t been easy for Jeremy, works as a legal advocate for people living with disabilities in New York State.

Jeremy moved to New York City in 1998, and has lived in more than eight places in the past 10 years – apartments, communal houses, and college dorms. As he puts it, he’s a “wandering” guy. Currently, Jeremy lives with a roommate, who he didn’t know prior to moving in together, in Brooklyn. The apartment was formerly a one bedroom, but the landlord has subdivided it into a two-bedroom unit, so it’s rather cramped. The super does his best to keep the place in good condition, but there’s still some unwanted noise, which can make it hard for Jeremy to enjoy peace and quiet, or to focus on work.

Jeremy likes his neighborhood in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, but rents there are on the rise, and Jeremy can’t afford it much longer on his salary. Plus, after years and years of moving around, living with roommates that he didn’t always get along with, it’s time for Jeremy and his two cats, Eva and Dharma Cat, to find a forever home.

Jeremy looked into a few different first-time homebuyer programs in the city, even applying for a City grant for himself! He was determined, and searched for affordable homeownership programs for months. Then he found Habitat NYC – he figured that with such a large building, his changes of being selected were better. So he applied online and the rest is history.

What is he most excited about moving to Sydney House? “Finally feeling like I am home.” No more wandering for this feline family.

Janice N.

"...[the Home Purchase Program] teaches your children that the dream of owning a home is attainable."

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Janice N.

Janice N.

Janice N. has applied to become a Habitat Homeowner multiple times, and she was finally selected to purchase a home in the Sydney House co-op in Williamsbridge, Bronx.

Janice, an administrative assistant at the Center for Infection & Immunity at Columbia University Medical Center, has a passion for thrillers (James Patterson novels preferred) and baking. She has lived in the same three-bedroom walk-up apartment for 20 years, where she raised her two daughters. Tragically, Janice lost her daughter Geaninna in a motorcycle accident in 2012. Her younger daughter Ciara lives at home and is a student at SUNY New Paltz. “I am very proud of her,” Janice told us about Ciara. This family also has some canine members! There’s Rocky, the French bulldog that the family got in memory of Geaninna, Sky the toy fox terrier and Ollie the rescue Yorkie.

Their home is comfortable, and Janice works hard so that she can save some of her paycheck every month, but it’s not perfect. They have to put up with irritating noise all the time, and they don’t always feel safe in the building or out on the sidewalk. “You can’t even walk out with everyone hanging out on the stairs,” Janice said.

Janice has known for a long time that she wants to own a home, but after applying over and over, she was getting discouraged. “Things have gotten so expensive and all the gentrification that’s been happening in the Bronx is making it impossible to buy,” she told us.

Finally, this time Janice was chosen to enter our Home Purchase Program, and she’s proud. “It gives you a sense of accomplishment,” Janice said. “And it teaches your children that the dream of owning a home is attainable.”

The whole family – furry ones included – are excited to own a home. What is first thing they will do in the new apartment? “Play some music, dance with happiness and celebrate. Toast to us!!”

Eddy P. and Alecia F.

"[We are excited] just knowing we will have something to call our own."

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Eddy P. and Alecia F.

Eddy P. and Alecia F.

Eddy P. and Alecia F. want something to call their own. The couple have moved around a bit – three times in the past ten years – and they’ve only lived in their current place for less than a year. Eddy, originally from the Dominican Republic, and Alecia, originally from Jamaica, are looking for something permanent. “We wanted to own our own home but with the high prices, we wouldn’t be able to own one,” Eddy told us.

Thankfully, a friend told the couple about Habitat NYC’s Home Purchase Program. They filled out their application and waited. Then, the call came – they had been selected from the lottery for a home at Sydney House, a 56-unit co-op in the Bronx!

Eddy and Alecia are excited, “just knowing we will have something to call our own.” They first thing they plan to do in their new apartment is hang up a sign reading “Home Sweet Home.”

Diana B.

"[Owning a home] feels like a grand achievement for me."

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Diana B.

Diana B.

Diana B. is a caretaker.

She’s cared for her mother Ana, even moving into her home until her resting day. Diana has cared for her daughter Natalie, who now has her Masters in Social Work and has recently moved out and on her own. She works at a New York City public health facility in the Psychiatry Child/Adolescent unit as a psych technician, where she cares and provides safety for the patients. She also cares deeply for the community in the NYCHA building where she has lived nearly her whole life. “We fight to protect each other and our families and we take great pride in that,” she said of her neighbors.

As much she loves her community, Diana still wants to own her own home. Something that’s hers, and not “just a place I’m renting.” She looked into buying a home before, but was discouraged by the high prices and mortgage rates. While working on managing her budget and keeping her credit in good standing, she saw a newspaper advertisement for Sydney House, a 56-unit co-op in the Bronx and applied. All that caring paid off, because Diana is now on her way to becoming a Habitat Homeowner!

“It feels like a grand achievement for me,” she said. The first thing Diana will do in her new home? “Probably cry tears of joy and gratitude.”

Dawn D.

"I would like to work with the community leaders and [my neighbors] on future endeavors."

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Dawn D.

Dawn D.

Dawn D. thought about leaving. As a school bus driver and motorcoach operator she is used to departures – she has been a bus driver for more than 20 years, and she loves to travel.

Unfortunately, there’s one departure she is not looking forward to. Dawn, who grew up in the NYCHA Edenwald Houses in the Bronx and moved back into her mother’s NYCHA apartment before her mother passed away, is being forced from her home. Her mother did not add Dawn onto her lease before she passed, which means that even though she pays the rent in full and on time, the City is pushing Dawn out. Her court date is pending.

When she lived with her mother, she saw how NYC’s rent went up every year. What would happen to Dawn as she got older? “I was afraid,” she said. “I didn’t want to be a senior citizen unable to pay my rent, or out on the street, and there didn’t seem to be a solution on how to keep the rent affordable and from rising year after year.”

She began to wonder if owning a home was possible. She started to work on keeping her finances in order, getting pre-approved for a mortgage and more. “It is a grueling process, but worth all the sweat and tears that follow,” she said.

After her mother passed, Dawn needed a new home quickly, and she looked into leaving the city all together. She loves the mountain views of Rockland, Dutchess & Westchester Counties, and looked into purchasing a home upstate. “In the process, I learned a lot about the open real estate market, the differences between condos and co-ops, HOA’s, down payments, FHA Loans, etc.,” she told us. “[But] things seemed difficult, so I left it alone and didn’t pursue it.”

She discovered Habitat NYC’s Home Purchase Program through online research about first-time homeownership opportunities. All of her research and preparation paid off, because Dawn is now a Habitat Homebuyer, who will soon move into Sydney House in the Bronx!

Dawn doesn’t have to leave her hometown now – in fact, she’s looking forward to putting down roots in her new home. “I would like to work with the community leaders and [my neighbors] on future endeavors, she told us.

We’re glad you’re staying in the city we all love, Dawn!

Ariana J.

"I'll be able to actively contribute to making my community of the Bronx a better place."

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Ariana J.

Ariana J.

Ariana J. is making her parents proud.

She’s the daughter of two Jamaican immigrants who, as she told us, “Sacrificed so much to give my brother and I a chance at a successful life.” Not only does Ariana have a great career at DonorsChoose, a crowdfunding non-profit for teachers, but soon, she will be a Habitat Homeowner. “My homeownership is truly [my parents’] dream come true,” Ariana said.

Ariana has lived with her family in their home her whole life, and while she promises she will miss them, she’s excited for the adventure of living on her own! She’s an avid cook (lasagna is the most recently mastered recipe), swimmer, runner and dancer. “All so I can keep eating,” she told us with a smile.

Ariana looked into buying a home in the Bronx, but was having trouble finding something that fit her budget. “It was extremely stressful. I couldn’t find anything in my price range and the few places I could scrape enough together to afford were in terrible condition,” Ariana said. “The process to get approved for a mortgage was depressing and time consuming and no real estate agents would take me seriously. I was close to giving up, then came Habitat.”

Ariana’s mom Andrea saw an article about Sydney House, a 56-unit co-op in the north Bronx, and sent along the application. “It was too good of an opportunity to pass up! It was the best chance I would have at homeownership. I promised myself I wouldn’t get my hopes up, but not applying would be doing myself a disservice.” After some careful paperwork and an interview, Ariana was accepted into the Habitat NYC Home Purchase Program!

So what inspired someone so young to become a Homeowner? It all comes back to her family. “I’m most excited about making my family proud. Their faces when I move in are going to be priceless.”

But to Ariana, it’s more than that. To her, homeownership is a way to build up her hometown. “Homeownership, in my opinion, is also the core way to build strong and safe communities. I’ll be able to actively contribute to making my community of the Bronx a better place, forming close relationships with my neighbors and working closely together to build up our neighborhood.”

The first thing she plans to do in her new apartment is “Write a letter to myself and hide it in the back of a drawer or closet. When I find that letter in 5-10 years, I’ll be able to reflect back on my first day in my new apartment and relive the immense joy and gratitude.”

We hope Ariana is proud of herself too.

789 Macdonough Street

"When everything is new and freshly painted, everyone is proud to bring their guests through." —Corinne D.

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789 Macdonough Street

789 Macdonough Street

789 MacDonough Street is a 41-unit affordable co-op building in Central Brooklyn. The Board of the co-op hired Habitat NYC to paint the interior hallways and lobby, fix some crumbling masonry by the windows and on the roof and to work on the interior floors and ceiling.

Habitat NYC’s Housing Preservation Program provides buildings like 789 MacDonough with zero- or low-cost painting, repairs, financial assistance and Board training, and more. These services provide a lifeline for homeowners in these buildings, allowing them to remain in their homes, in their neighborhoods for generations.

The repairs and the fresh paint and newly shiny floors give a sense of pride to the families who call 789 MacDonough home. “Before the work, I would give my incoming guests a disclaimer. But when everything is new and freshly painted, everyone is proud to bring their guests through and showcase the lobby and building interior because of the first-rate product given to us by Habitat.” – Corinne D., 789 MacDonough resident and Board Treasurer

 

Max and Michele E.

Max and Michele E. have been searching for a home of their own for years – they wanted a piece of the American Dream.

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Max and Michele E.

Max and Michele E.

Max and Michele E. have been searching for a home of their own for years – they wanted a piece of the American Dream. The parents of two young boys, they wanted to own a home where the boys could have their own rooms, and even a yard to play in. But it felt impossible to find a home in Brooklyn on Max’s salary – he has worked in a Cornell University research lab for more than 10 years, and Michele is a student who stays at home with the boys.

The family of four lived in an apartment near Brooklyn College, a quiet neighborhood close to transit. But the apartment was too small – four people in a one bedroom. It was cramped and there was little privacy. Max and Michele were beginning to despair by 2017.

Then, their happy ending hit Max right in the chest. One of Max’s colleagues has a wife who works in real estate, so he knows a good deal when he sees one. This colleague saw a Habitat NYC ad in a morning newspaper, and immediately thought of Max and his family. Then, at work, he took the paper and thumped Max right in the chest with it, telling him to apply. ‘I’m going to do what he says!’ Max remembers thinking.

Max got all of his papers in order and, never one to leave anything to chance, personally dropped them off at the Habitat NYC office. In March of 2018, the family got the news that they would soon purchase a single family home in Queens.

The search was over, and the American Dream was finally theirs.

Hicham N.

"I am extremely excited to own a new home. Owning a new home will make me feel safe and healthy."

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Hicham N.

Hicham N.

Hicham and his wife Salima are cramped. Hicham, who works as an IT field engineer at La Guardia Airport, and Salima, who stays home with the children, live four people in a one bedroom apartment. “We can’t move around,” Hicham says, “and the kids can’t play safely.” The house is cold in the winter and hot in the summer, and there’s mold and pests. Not a place for a growing family.

It’s time for the family to move, but because of the cost of living here in New York, they worried that they may have to move to another state.
The family looked into buying their own home through a traditional mortgage, but they couldn’t afford the down payments. Thankfully, Hicham heard about Habitat NYC from a friend. He researched the program and liked what he found – he applied and was accepted into the program. He kept an eye on his credit score, and made sure to pay all his bills on time in order to qualify.

“I am extremely excited to own a home,” Hicham told us. While some people are excited to decorate their new home, Naji has his mind on more practical matters: he is looking forward to learning all about the circuit breaker, the water main and even installing his own security system. “Owning a home will make me feel safe and healthy.”

Jose & Leocadia L.

“Owning a home will teach my kids to do the same when they grow up.”

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Jose & Leocadia L.

Jose & Leocadia L.

Jose and Leocadia L. and their daughter currently live in a studio apartment in Corona, Queens. The apartment is cramped, there is not enough privacy and far too many pests. After hearing about Habitat NYC from a coworker, Jose, who is a chef at a famous steakhouse in Manhattan, applied for the program, “because it was the only chance to get a decent home with my current income.”

What excites them most about owning a home – other than some privacy! – is setting an example for their daughter to achieve her own dreams. “Owning a home will teach my kids to do the same when they grow up,” Jose wrote.

Cassandra M.

"I am ready for this. I know it won’t be easy, but nothing in my past has been easy, and I’ve survived it all."

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Cassandra M.

Cassandra M.

Cassandra M. is a native New Yorker, who grew up in BedStuy, Brooklyn and in Queens. After Cassandra’s mother passed away when Cassandra was just a toddler, she was raised by a series of relatives. She dreamed of being a veterinarian, and has a passion for animals that remains to this day.

As a young girl, Cassandra loved to play and work in her Great-Aunt’s backyard and garden. As she got older, she helped to maintain the house and yard. She remembers the Muscadine grapes that grew in the yard – her Great-Aunt made wine from them, but Cassandra liked to eat them right off the vine. “I learned what it meant to take pride in your home and how it represents you,” she said.

By the time she was 16, Cassandra was working part time, running the household and caring for her elderly Great-Aunt, and yet, she graduated from high school and attended college for one year.

Cassandra worked as an NYCT Bus Operator for 13 years, and now is a Fleet Driver for a health insurance company. She has lived in her current home for nearly 20 years, but “I don’t call it home, because it’s not a home, not to me anyway.” She lives with her three ‘children,’ her cats Allae, Phelan and Tiggee. The building has had a series of issues, from blackouts (“Try climbing to the sixth floor with nothing but a flashlight.”) to a three-month period without an elevator. There is often garbage in the hallways, which smell like urine, and often residents do not clean up after their pets in the outdoor areas. She dreamed about living in a home, like she did as a child; for the past five years, she has looked into buying a home in Connecticut, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, but none of the houses were right.

Despite knowing about Habitat NYC’s Home Purchase Program, Cassandra never thought she would qualify. But in a twist of fate, she happened upon a Habitat NYC information session, and discovered that we were accepting applications for homeownership in South Jamaica. She applied, and hoped, and saved, and was accepted. She will be a Habitat homeowner. “I am ready for this,” she said. “I know it won’t be easy, but nothing in my past has been easy, and I’ve survived it all.”

She already feels ownership of her future Habitat home – she has shoveled snow from the sidewalk, her sidewalk. She has picked up flyers from the porch, and measured the fence in order to have it replaced. She plans to put in a garage. “I’m so excited [that] I want to do everything as fast as possible,” she said.

Vanessa G.

“I grew up in a house because of my parents' sacrifice and dedication. I want the same thing for my girls."

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Vanessa G.

Vanessa G.

Vanessa G. takes care of people. She is a mom to two beautiful girls, and works at Columbia University in the procurement department, where she helps to ensure that the school operates smoothly, helping of thousands of students and faculty every day.

However, it was hard for Vanessa to take care of her family’s living situation. The three were living in an apartment in Harlem, but Vanessa didn’t feel safe there. “I want my girls to grow up the way I did,” Vanessa told us, “in a safe and clean environment.” So she and her girls moved in with Vanessa’s parents, in the home where Vanessa grew up. But the home is getting cramped with all five of them.

Vanessa learned about Habitat NYC about 10 years ago, when she had her eldest daughter. In preparation for her application, Vanessa made sure to keep her credit score healthy and even sold her car to keep her debt down. And now, finally, Vanessa will be a Habitat Homeowner in Queens.

“I grew up in a house because of my parents’ sacrifice and dedication. I want the same thing for my girls,” she told us. “This opportunity is amazing and I am so excited.”

Lizar A.

“I am just thankful that I can leave something behind for my son, so he can have a head start. A safe and comfortable place where he can lay his head and call home."

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Lizar A.

Lizar A.

As a Community Associate for the City of New York, Lizar A. oversees five shelters, helping others find permanent housing. But providing a safe, affordable home for herself and her son Ajahnai, proved difficult. Lizar and Ajahnai live in a comfortable apartment, but the neighborhood isn’t safe – Lizar rarely feels safe outside, the parks nearby are dirty and dangerous and her neighbors play loud music all night long. It’s a situation they want to improve.

Lizar, who was born and raised in the Caribbean and came to the US when she was 20, wants more than a safe, affordable apartment. She wants to purchase a home. Her goal, as she puts it, “is to reach [the top of] Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – self-actualization – meeting my full potential.”

Lizar attended a few other first time homebuyers programs, but after being referred to Habitat NYC by a friend of a friend, she applied and was accepted into our Home Purchase Program. She kept on top of her finances and attended seminars, and now, she is well on her way to becoming a Habitat Homeowner.

“I am just thankful that I can leave something behind for my son, so he can have a head start,” Lizar said. “A safe and comfortable place where he can lay his head and call home. Being a homeowner allows you to see where your hard-earned money is being invested, and is a great lesson for my son.”

Something else in the family’s future? A potential dog!

Janet R.

"Owning a home means being able to plan my future."

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Janet R.

Janet R.

Janet R. is a life-long New Yorker who lived with her mother and her nephew before moving into her Habitat home. However, it was an uncertain living situation; she didn’t know how long she wanted to stay with her family. She was a little nervous about moving out – she had never lived on her own before!

One day, she saw a new building being constructed in the South Bronx with affordable units for sale. Curious, she googled the building and discovered that Habitat NYC was associated with the project. She clicked on the Habitat NYC link and, as she says, “the rest is history.”

“I tried to back out three times! I was nervous!,” she told us. “Because I had never done anything like this before. But it was simple enough. I sent in the paper work, I filed it, I went in for the meetings. Everything gets laid out when you’re applying. All the rules are there. There’s nothing you’re getting into that you’re not aware of.”

Janet works as an administrative employee of New York State’s Unified Court System, advocating for patients in psychiatric hospitals. She is also an avid Yankees fan.

For sweat equity, Janet says, “I painted, I nailed, I did drywall…” She even went to an open house of the building where she did her sweat equity – to see her handiwork complete. After completing her equity and completing the application and purchasing process, she closed on a one-bedroom apartment, where she now lives with her husband.

Janet has been a homeowner since 2010. She says that owning her home, “means being able to plan my future.”

Ownership gives Janet and her husband freedom from worrying about how to afford the next apartment. “If we want to travel,” says Janet, “we can. We don’t have to worry about ‘Oh, we’re going to move in a year or in six months.’ And if we do move, it’s a choice, not an obligation.”

Her advice for potential Habitat applicants? “Do it. It was the best decision for me. If you start the process and don’t like it, you can always stop. But if you never start it, you’ll never know if it was for you or not.”

Jen T.

"I'm getting so much out of this program, and it's so meaningful to me to do work in the community as part of my sweat equity. Each hour we contribute helps make a difference."

Erneita D.

“The first thing I will do when we move in is say a prayer and thank God for this blessing.”

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Erneita D.

Erneita D.

Erneita D. has lived in New York City for more than 20 years, but she and her 11 year old daughter try to return to her native Jamaica once a year. The two share a rent-controlled one bedroom apartment in Flatbush, Brooklyn. The building is in good condition, with an attentive super, but it’s just not theirs.

“I’m working paycheck to paycheck, even though I work for the city, it’s paycheck to paycheck and you don’t really see what you’re gaining just paying rent. Owning your home, it’s yours. It’s a sense of security for myself and for my daughter.”

Erneita has been looking to buy a home, visiting open houses in her neighborhood to survey the market, but she never found anything in her price range. Although she knew about Habitat NYC for a few years, she decided to apply for its homes in East Brooklyn, which is near her existing neighborhood. She was accepted to the program, and will soon move into the Dean Street Condominium in Ocean-Hill/Brownsville.

Habitat NYC is helping Erneita make her dream of homeownership a reality, and she is humble and grateful, “The first thing I will do when we move in is say a prayer and thank God for this blessing.”

Jessica Y.

“What excites me about owning my own home is the independence and the accomplishment I will feel when I walk through those doors.”

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Jessica Y.

Jessica Y.

Jessica Y. worked her way up in the recycling company where she works – she started out as a “picker,” someone who sorts recycled items as they come in, all the way up to a skilled Crane Operator. “I’m the only woman at my job. It’s in the construction field. I’m honored to work there, but it’s hard. Everything that the guys do, I have to do ten times better just to be seen as an equal partner.”

It’s no surprise that Jessica worked just as hard to make sure her finances were in order to purchase a home. However, when she tried to apply for a traditional mortgage, she was told she needed a co-applicant. “For about a year or two I was looking, but everything was too expensive, or no [banks] accepted me without being married or without my parents as a co-sign,” Jessica told us. She was beginning to lose hope. Until she found Habitat NYC. “I found out about Habitat through my mom,” she said. “She saw in the newspapers that you could apply for a home, and I did and now I’m here today!”

All of Jessica’s saving and budgeting was worth it when she was accepted into Habitat NYC’s Home Purchase program, one month to the day after her father passed away. “He was waiting for that,” she told us. “My dad was the financial guy, taught me how to use a bank account. I know he’s very excited [for me].”

Becoming a Habitat homebuyer took all the stress and anxiety out of buying a home. “With Habitat I feel like I can afford the mortgage and have a life. On Saturday nights I can go to dinner somewhere. With the other banks I thought ‘I’m not going to have a dollar to my name.’ Habitat helped me in that I don’t feel that pressure. It feels very doable.”

All of Jessica’s striving and saving and discipline will be worth it the first time she walks through her apartment door. “What excites me about owning my own home is the independence and the accomplishment I will feel when I walk through those doors and the sacrifice was worth this moment,” she said. “The first thing I will do when I move in is thank God and laugh and cry [with] joy.”

Mike & Gladys M.

“Habitat NYC and Westchester opens a door, and so many other chapters of your life are opened up because of that.”

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Mike & Gladys M.

Mike & Gladys M.

View Mike and Gladys M.’s story.

Eleven years ago, Mike and Gladys M. were raising their three daughters, ages ten, seven and four, in a cramped one-bedroom apartment. They were always on the lookout for better, more permanent housing, but with the cost of living in New York City outpacing Mike’s wages as a truck driver, it seemed like a pipe dream.

All that changed when they discovered Habitat NYC and Westchester.

In March of 2006, this close-knit family completed its “sweat equity”— the hours of labor that Habitat homeowners dedicate to building their own homes and the homes of their neighbors. With help from Habitat NYC and Westchester’s many generous supporters and volunteers, they were able to achieve what had seemed like an impossible dream: owning a home in New York City.

For Gladys, the time spent working with her family on the construction of their home was its own reward. “It was a wonderful thing to put my hands on a building that I was going to live in afterwards,” she recalls.

Mike is thankful that the stability of homeownership has led to great things for his family. “Habitat NYC and Westchester opens a door,” he marvels, “and so many other chapters of your life are opened up because of that.”

Mike, Gladys and their daughters have lived since then in their own house: a comfortable, energy-efficient three-bedroom Habitat home in Jamaica, Queens. Their daughters, Mikayla, now 21 and a college student, Kristiana, now 18 and a college student, and Analiese, now 15 and in high school, have grown up in a spacious home with a yard and a vegetable garden.

Remembering the experience of becoming a Habitat homeowner, Gladys recalls the spirit of community that helped make it possible. “It was the people who helped build it that made the home,” she says. “Not just the family.”

Billy & Anna T.

“All the volunteers who have worked with me on my future home are here not for their families, not for a paycheck, not for any personal gain. Together we are building a better home for my family, and they are helping dreams come true.”

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Billy & Anna T.

Billy & Anna T.

In February of this 2016, Billy T. and his wife Anna lived in a cramped one bedroom apartment in Midtown Manhattan with their two children, daughter Maya and son Layne. Billy and Maya slept on a pull out couch in the living room so that Anna and Layne could sleep in the bedroom.

It was time for a change.

Through the Carter Work Project, Habitat NYC renovated a three-bedroom home in Rosedale Queens for the family. More than being three-times bigger than their midtown apartment, the house has a backyard, which is great news for their dog Snoopy, who had been living with Anna’s mother.

Billy and Anna are both immigrants – he from Taiwan and she from Russia – and they are finally able to achieve a piece of the American dream: homeownership.

Billy, an audio-visual engineer, used his remaining vacation days to put in the sweat equity required for a Habitat Home.

“I’m doing this build for my family, for our future,” said Billy. “All the volunteers who have worked with me on my future home are here not for their families, not for a paycheck, not for any personal gain. They are from all walks of life giving their own time to help build my family’s home and they’re not only drilling, sawing and hammering with precision, they’re drilling sawing hammering with their HEARTS!! Together we are building a better home for my family, and they are helping dreams come true.”

Yvette P.

“If Habitat didn’t exist, I don’t think I would have been able to buy a place and own my own home. It’s so important to me to have a good home for my kids."

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Yvette P.

Yvette P.

Prior to partnering with Habitat NYC, Yvette P. had been living in a one bedroom apartment with her two daughters, Stacey and Samara. The apartment was cramped, moldy, and the ceiling was constructed with dangerous asbestos.

Yvette completed 400 hours of sweat equity, helping to hang drywall, paint and accomplish numerous other projects. She even volunteered after her requirement was completed!

Now she, Stacey and Samara live in a mold and asbestos-free three bedroom apartment. Each has their own room for the first time. Yvette especially enjoys tending to the garden in front of their new home.

Yvette says her Habitat experience has been life-transforming: “If Habitat didn’t exist, I don’t think I would have been able to buy a place and own my own home. It’s so important to me to have a good home for my kids. I’m doing all this for them,” she said.

“I want to have a good home for my kids,” she said. “My daughter is planning to go to grad school, and my other daughter just started kindergarten. I want a nice place for them to live. I’m doing all this for them.”

Voncille C.

“When I got the call that I was approved for Habitat’s program, it didn’t seem real. I wanted to pinch myself. Words can’t even explain how excited I was. I feel so lucky."

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Voncille C.

Voncille C.

Voncille C. and her son Ahmai initially lived in East New York to save money, but she didn’t feel safe returning home late and Ahmai couldn’t play outside. After their neighborhood experienced multiple shootings, she knew she had to move and find a safe place to raise her son.

Voncille grew up in the St. Albans area of Queens and had always dreamed of living in a home near there. When she learned that Habitat NYC was renovating vacant homes near her childhood neighborhood, she knew it was a perfect fit.

“When I got the call that I was approved for Habitat’s program, it didn’t seem real. I wanted to pinch myself. Words can’t even explain how excited I was. I feel so lucky. I’ve always known that one day I’d have my house, and now it’s happening.”

Voncille’s Habitat home is just ten minutes away from where she grew up.

“I want my son to have a house. I want him to have a yard to run around in, just like I had.”

Voncille recently closed on their Habitat house in Queens, and take great pride in their new status as homeowners.

“It’s relaxing,” Voncille said. “No matter what happens during the day, I know I can go home to my cozy, relaxing home. I love the view, and I like to jog around the neighborhood, so I get more exercise. I feel safe and secure.”

Perhaps the most important accomplishment of all?  “My son got his first bike.”

When asked what owning a home means to her, Voncille said simply, “Determination and dedication pays off.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves!

Selina S.

"Lifelong New Yorkers realize how tough it can be to raise a family here, but know it is absolutely worth it."

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Selina S.

Selina S.

Selina S. is a mother of three girls and a lifelong New Yorker. After becoming a Habitat Homeowner in Queens, she shared her experience with Habitat’s program and what it means for her family:

“Lifelong New Yorkers realize early on that their childhood is like no one else’s. All sorts of opportunities are at our fingertips. The streets here sparkle! Lifelong New Yorkers also realize how tough it can be to raise a family here but know it is absolutely worth it.

I work hard to provide for my daughters. So when they asked me for a backyard, I worked even harder to give it to them. However the more I researched it, I began to feel defeated. How can I save aggressively enough to afford a home for my girls while paying for our day to day? I teach my children that when something seems impossible, that it is in fact possible!

I researched programs and then I found Habitat NYC. What surprised me the most was how accessible everyone was and how they were all working hard to help my family accomplish a goal. This goal that seemed 20 years into the future is now right in front of me. The only better feeling than that is being a mother to the funniest girls in town.”

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