Marisol Lopez’s children can’t wait to have a pet dog.
That dream was taking its first step toward reality for Guillermo Jr.,16, Alexa, 13, Genaro, 11, and Abril, 10, now that their parents are new homeowners.
The Lopez family was among three homeowners receiving keys to their affordable homes on Sawyer Avenue in Carpinteria, during a dedication ceremony Friday for Habitat for Humanity of Southern Santa Barbara County’s fourth affordable housing neighborhood.
“We are excited to finally get a dog,” Lopez said. “We will have the peace of mind of raising our kids in our home because we don’t have to move again into another house, city or state because of the high price of rent.”
With sounds of hammers and power drills in the air, more than 50 area government officials, Habitat staff, board members and community supporters gathered to welcome the families into their new homes.
Move-in date for the three families, including eight children, is early 2019, said Jessica Wishan, CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Southern Santa Barbara County.
“We are not quite to the finish line, but we are close — much of that is due to the several months of disaster and the evacuations,” she said. “But coming together now, the time is right.”
The three new houses in the 4900 block of Sawyer Avenue were designed by Santa Barbara-based DMHA Architecture. Each house is roughly 1,200 square feet and features three bedrooms and a detached carport.
Homeowners helped build their houses alongside hundreds of volunteers, Wishan said.
Residents moving into the new houses are from Santa Barbara and were living in less than favorable conditions for their distinctive needs and family size.
“We will have a better life,” said Maria Huerta while standing alongside her husband, Gabriel, and children, Maximiliano, 7, and Sophie, 4. “We can start saving money, and make a plan for college.”
As part of Habitat’s affordable homeownership model, the families will purchase the homes from the nonprofit organization with an affordable mortgage designed to fit within 30 percent of each family’s annual income.
“This is not a free home, but a model that helps our community build self-reliance and invest in their future,” Wishan explained. “May the homes be a beacon of hope for this neighborhood and this community.”
The families were selected after a rigorous application process, according to Paul Wilson, Habitat’s board president.
The first-time homebuyers were selected from more than 80 applicants. Habitat for Humanity chose the three final applicants based on their critical need for affordable housing, ability to pay a no-interest mortgage, and their willingness to partner with Habitat in the construction of their home.
“It was a detailed process that started almost three years ago,” Wilson said. “It was a tough process — going through the process is not at all fun, but necessary.”
Habitat for Humanity can build homes cost-effectively through a unique model that leverages contributions of donations, building materials, land, volunteer labor and sweat equity.
The organization works with the family to ensure that through an affordable mortgage, their housing costs do not exceed 30 percent of their income, is 40 percent to 80 percent of area median income.