On Monday, Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk will raise the walls on its first house in East Hampton and volunteer EMTs Anthony LaFountain and Cheyenne Banville will begin to see the shape of their future home.
Part of the organization’s 2020 CEO Build/Blitz Build, the 1,800-square-foot, four-bedroom, one-bathroom house on Hartley Boulevard in Springs will be completed in just three weeks.
The couple spend many hours volunteering at the Springs Fire Department, and LaFountain’s job working as a mechanic for the Town of East Hampton and Banville’s job working for an East Hampton garden center haven’t allowed them to afford a typical house on the pricey East End, close to their jobs and the fire department, where LaFountain is also a volunteer firefighter.
"Many local fire departments are losing young volunteer members because we cannot afford the cost of living on the Island," said LaFountain, who was born and raised in Springs.
Like any Habitat applicant, LaFountain and Banville must put 300 hours of "sweat equity" into building their own house and will get an affordable mortgage for a portion of the cost of the house. Habitat will put a lien on the house for the remainder to keep the monthly mortgage affordable.
The charity usually acquires property that the county has seized because of tax liens and then gives it to the town, which passes it on to Habitat.
"Essentially the properties tend to choose us, we don’t tend to choose them," said Lee Silberman, CEO and executive director for Suffolk Habitat.
While Habitat Suffolk has built as far east as Orient Point and Greenport, about half the houses in 30 years have been in Bellport, which many in the Mastic/Mastic Beach area.
"Unfortunately … there is an affordable housing crisis on Long Island and lot of the people just can’t afford the taxes," Silberman said.
Mortgages for the new owners are capped at 30% of the couple’s annual income, which usually ranges between $100,000 and $150,000, Silberman said.
In this case, the house will cost more than those in other Suffolk communities, so Habitat will be shouldering a larger portion than typical, Silberman said.
For LaFountain, being able to stay in his hometown and own a house is a dream come true.
"We are forever grateful to Habitat Suffolk and the kindness of all those who will help fund and build our new home, allowing us to live in our community, continue to volunteer in the fire department and start a family together," he said.