Low-income families become homeowners

Eight grateful families received keys to their new homes Saturday.

The seven new town homes and one refurbished single-family home were unveiled at a ribbon-cutting event that included a blessing of each home and tours of the homes.

Her voice breaking and eyes tearing, Marci Johnson, new owner of one of the townhomes, held her daughter Kailey's hand as she related how grateful for her new home she was, and the strong bonds she created with the other homeowners.

“So many people touched our lives and we heard that people drove hours and hours to volunteer for our site, and we are so touched, and so grateful,” Johnson said.

The homes were provided courtesy of the City of Burbank, the Burbank Redevelopment Agency, the Burbank Housing Corporation and Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles.

The town homes range in size from a two-bedroom, one-bathroom unit at 780 square feet to a four-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom town home of 1,455 square feet. They are located on Elliott Drive, Young said.

A refurbished two bedroom, one bathroom single-family home of about 780 square feet, located at Keeler Street at Elliot Drive, was dubbed the “Centennial House.” The home was given that name to celebrate the community's participation and mark the city's centennial, said Ross Young, of the city's community development department.

The families were interviewed by Habitat officials and had to qualify financially and meet California Department of Housing and Community Development's very-low income category. For a family of four, the income could not exceed $42,700, Young said.

The process of assembling the four parcels containing the homes began in 2005, Young said, and it was about this time that Habitat became a partner.

By June 2009 the project received formal council approval and construction began in March, Young said. The rehab of the house began in August.

The families were selected in January and were surprised with the news that they were going to be homeowners, Young added.

Mayor Jess Talamantes welcomed Sandra Leiva, the new owner of the Centennial House, and others to the blessing and ribbon cutting on the front step of the house.

“When you can make eight families happy, bring them a home, especially this time of the year, it really comes from the heart,” Talamantes said. “It just makes me proud to be a Burbank resident, proud to be on the City Council, and proud to be mayor at this time. I'm very pleased for these families who are going to be living in these units.”

Leiva said in Spanish that her dream of homeownership had been made a reality.

“Today is a day that I am not going to ever forget,” Leiva said. “And above all, my son has a safe place to live. It's hard to believe. Wow, this is my house. Thank you, God.”

Habitat has been building homes for 35 years and has 1,500 affiliates in the U.S. It is building housing in 90 countries, said Erin Rank, President and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles.

“Together we're making a tremendous difference. Habitat is now the largest private home builder in the United States,” Rank said.

The money families pay toward their zero-interest mortgages goes to help other families, Rank said, adding that more than 5,000 volunteers came to work on the Burbank project, in addition to the numerous businesses that contributed in some way to making the project a reality.

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