During a time when some are struggling to feed their families in Riverhead, affordable home ownership seems like an elusive pipe dream for many.
But now, at least one family will see the American dream realized, as the Town of Riverhead teams up with Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk to build a new affordable home at 75 Phillips Street.
It is has been years since a Habitat for Humanity home was built in Riverhead, according to Chris Kempner, director of Riverhead's Community Development Agency. This house will be the fourth, with a fifth possibly to follow.
In recent years, 10 Habitat for Humanity homes have been built around the East End and east of Brookhaven Town.
Vivian Becker, the CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk, "We're very excited about the possibility of resuming work in Riverhead. We want to fill the need to provide decent, affordable housing for deserving, qualified needy families."
Riverhad has a need for affordable homes, Becker said. "And it's a good time because Riverhead is experiencing a revitalization downtown -- it's an exciting time."
So far, Becker said, Habitat for Humanity needs to come take a look at the house and determine if the project is viable.
Kempner said the property is one of a number of 72-H properties deeded to Riverhead by Suffolk County. 72-H properties are those that have been previously seized by Suffolk County for non-payment of back taxes. They are later deeded to local municipalities with the understanding that the properties be rehabilitated for use as affordable housing.
Kempner said Habitat for Humanity was a perfect fit for the parcel. In the past, the town collected a few properties, then issue requests for proposals for developers including the Long Island Housing Partnership, she said, with an eye toward redeveloping the homes and reselling them as affordable.
"But, given the depressed market, we were concerned about trying to sell affordable units, because they would be competing on price with unrestricted market units," Kempner said.
According to the Habitat for Humanity website, the organization builds and rehabilitiates homes alongside partner families with volunteer labor and donation of funds and materials.
In addition to a down payment and monthly mortgage payments, new homeowners invest hundreds of hours of "sweat equity," laboring to help build their Habitat homes -- and also, working to help other Habitat families realize their dreams of home ownership. Habitat houses are sold to partner families at no profit and financed with affordable loans; the homeowners’ monthly mortgage payments are used to build still more Habitat houses. Habitat for Humanity International requires a zero interest equivalent mortgage.
Kempner said the next step is for Habitat to access the title to the property, with Suffolk County preparing the deed transfer. Should Habitat for Humanity deem the project viable, work could begin as early as spring on the home, she said.