SRHA donating land to Habitat

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 26, 2002

In about a year from now, another low- to moderate-income Suffolk family will begin realizing the dream of homeownership from the ground up, an option once considered taboo for this population.

Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority Commissioners have agreed to donate a third parcel of land in the Orlando community to Suffolk’s Habitat for Humanity. The SRHA Board reached the decision during its Tuesday night meeting. Since 1992, Suffolk Habitat has constructed 14 homes in the city, the first of which was built in the Saratoga community on land donated by the SRHA.

Theresa A. Provost, SRHA development operations director, explained during the meeting that three contiguous 4,800 square-foot lots in Orlando would create the one parcel for construction of the Habitat house. City development guidelines require at least 10,000 square feet.

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&uot;This puts a family in a house,&uot; commented Vice Chairman Charles W. Cary II, responding to a question from Commissioner Elizabeth B. Smith regarding the benefits the agency stands to reap.

Suffolk Habitat project coordinator Fran Alwood said in a Wednesday interview that the organization is &uot;very pleased,&uot; with the SRHA’s latest donation. &uot;This will make our third house in the Orlando neighborhood.&uot;

One family has moved in, and the second house is under construction with an anticipated move-in date of September, Alwood explained. Due to road construction under way, Alwood said, it would be next spring before work begins on the house in Orlando.

For now, Suffolk Habitat is raising money for the next endeavor. The homes are a deal for the buyers because costs are kept at a minimum due to monetary, material and labor donations. The prospective homeowners are also required to invest &uot;sweat equity&uot; into the project, by devoting an established number of hours toward building their new home.

Waiting lists have reached groups of 30 to 40 in the past, which must be reduced to accommodate the training sessions, from which the new homeowners are chosen. The next training session is anticipated to start in January. Families learn about the program, numerous aspects of homeownership, home repairs, responsibility, credit, and other related issues.

As Alwood put it, the South Suffolk Orlando community has &uot;pulled itself up by its boot straps.&uot; In the late ’90s, the city and the housing authority entered into a partnership to revitalize the deteriorated neighborhood. The area – once primarily known for its crime and dilapidated housing – has benefited from a gradual facelift.

Plans for sidewalks, street lighting, a community center, and quality single family homes are all coming into focus. Over the past five years, new single family homes have become a dominant part of the community landscape. First Baptist Orlando, a neighborhood staple, also became an extension of the neighborhood’s progress as it began construction on a new edifice scheduled for completion in the coming weeks.

&uot;We’re working together to revitalize the community,&uot; said Alwood.

Habitat for Humanity is an internationally recognized program-responsible for erecting thousands of homes worldwide. Former President Jimmy Carter and wife Roslyn’s extensive involvement with Habitat has been recognized for more than 20 years.