1st affordable Habitat for Humanity home completed in Harlem Heights

Reporter: Tiffany Rizzo Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:


On Monday morning, the first of six Harlem Heights families gets the keys to a brand-new home as part of a $1 million pledge to affordable housing in Southwest Florida, thanks to Habitat for Humanity and Finemark National Bank and Trust.

If you buy a home today, your mortgage payment will be 66% more than a year ago. The monthly payment for a median-price home in the $380,000 range is over $2,000, according to figures from Xillow and Freddie Mac. That means the average person in Southwest Florida could be priced out of the “American dream” of homeownership. In order for the families in Harlem Heights to get their affordable mortgages, they had to help with 300 hundred hours of work on their homes and attend more than 20 hours of homeownership classes.

Habitat for Humanity is celebrating two of its newest homebuyers who put in that work. Like many, Rebeca Roriguez and her 85-year-old mother couldn’t afford their skyrocketing rent. Now they have a permanent and affordable solution. They paid $2,000 toward closing costs, and at their closing in a couple of weeks, they will buy their home through Habitat with a 0% interest loan. Their mortgage will be set at no more than 30% of their income.

Habitat for Humanity construction site. Credit: WINK News

“Affordable housing, there is just… we’re in a major crisis right now, and Hurricane Ian did not help by any means,” said Elisha Baird, vice president of strategic partnerships at Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry Counties. “And it’s just important for families to be able to have an affordable mortgage. You know, a statistic says that people are paying more than 50% of their annual income on their housing costs and needs.”

So far, Habitat for Humanity has completed 29 single-family homes in the 24-acre Heritage Heights planned community. Once complete, they will house 150 families in the neighborhood.

“It’s so exciting to just come to this day for that celebration with the families, because they have worked so hard to complete the program,” Baird said. “There’s not a time or an opportunity that, when I do attend a dedication, that there isn’t emotions that come along with the celebration for the families because we know that they have worked so hard.”

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