A Bridgehampton family living in a basement will come above ground later this year and occupy their new home in Riverside, the first of five homes in the hamlet being built by Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk.
In partnership with the Southampton Housing Authority, the Middle Island-based nonprofit on Thursday raised the first wall of the home on Old Quogue Road, where a dilapidated home once stood and was demolished to make way for the new house.
Sahlise Cherry, 46, of Bridgehampton, told Newsday the moment was a very emotional one for her and her family.
"We’ve been saving money, trying to find someplace to move for my family, and getting picked has been the answer to our prayers," said Cherry, a separated mother of four who works at East End Disability Associates, a Riverhead nonprofit. "It’s definitely a dream come true."
Cherry and two of her children — Jamiya Hopson, 12, and Jason Hopson, 26 — and a grandchild live in tight quarters in the basement apartment of a home owned by Cherry’s parents. The space is no longer big enough for the family, Cherry said.
After hearing about the program through a webinar at her job, Cherry applied and was accepted.
The two-story, 1,000-square-foot home will have three bedrooms, one bathroom and is expected to take about eight months to build. Habitat CEO Lee Silberman told Newsday the nonprofit intends to sell the home to Cherry by the end of the year.
The nonprofit selects homeowners using several criteria, including their ability to pay, their housing need and an annual income within 40% to 60% of the Area Median Income based on family size, according to Silberman. The homeowners must also fulfill 300 hours of "sweat equity" in the form of community service or volunteer work, and construction work on their future home, and complete financial fitness and maintenance classes to prepare them to be successful homeowners.
"It benefits the community by taking blighted lots and turning them into nice houses," Silberman said. "It benefits the towns by putting those lots on the tax rolls at full value, and it helps families. Studies show being in a stable home environment has positive healthcare aspects and academic aspects."
While other living arrangements will be made for the grandchild, Cherry said her children are very excited about having their own home.
"There’s going to be more than enough room," Cherry said. "My daughter is already thinking about how to set up her room, and designs for herself. It’s a complete dream come true."