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“Ten years ago I faced an owner-eviction,” says prospective homeowner Lynn, “and I have been scrabbling to keep our housing situation stable ever since.”
Lynn’s predicament is one to which many San Franciscans can relate. A city resident for more than three decades, and with a daughter born here, her deep roots left her highly motivated to fight to stay in the place she loves.
That aim is now firmly within reach. This month Lynn took a major step toward homeownership when she stepped on to a Habitat construction site for the first time. She is beginning 500 hours of work building her own home and those of neighbors.
Standing on the third story of Habitat’s Amber Drive eight-home development with a tool belt on and hammer in hand, she took time to reflect on her journey.
“I arrived in ‘87,” she says, “and I’ve been in the city 35 years now, so I didn’t really want to move out!
“My home is here, my network is here and, as a single mom, that network is really important. I am a nutrition counsellor and my business is right here in the city.”
“I started working with the Mayor’s housing office and it was through them – their below market rate program – that I found out about this Habitat opportunity. I then did financial counseling and that really helped me get ready for homeownership.”
Like all Habitat homeowners, she will benefit from a $0 down, 0% interest mortgage and have payments capped at no more than 30% of gross household income.
Has Lynn had any previous construction experience? “No,” she laughs, “but I love to learn and I use power tools a lot at home for repairs and things.”
Under the watchful eye of Habitat foreman Mike, she spent her first morning on site carefully measuring wood and cutting it using a big circular saw, working alongside her neighbor-to-be Fernando. These were then taken up to the top floor of the three-story building.
“I feel like we’re in good hands with Mike – he hasn’t given us anything we can’t handle but he’s pushing us at the same time!”
When completed later this year eight families will be moving into the homes in the Diamond Heights neighborhood. It will mark the fulfillment of a bequest by Mischa and Brigitte Seligman, whose generous donation of the land for the homes was made in honor of Mischa’s mother Maria Kolisch. Maria wanted to make sure more families would have the opportunity to stay in the city she loved so much.
As Lynn says: “it’s all about stability”
“It’s a huge weight off my shoulders to know what the payment will be and to know that number will be stable. I can’t tell you what a relief that is.”