Eric and Audreyelaine Coleman can hardly believe it, but they’re about to become homeowners. The reality is just setting in: this month they will start paying their mortgage on a new Habitat house at 1910 West Wilt Street, becoming the newest residents of a friendly, stable block where almost every house has been built or renovated by Habitat. The façade is a gorgeous dark blue (they picked the color, and it looks phenomenal with the bright white trim). They’ve driven past the house more times than they can count—just to see the progress since construction started in November—but Audreyelaine doesn’t want to see inside until she and her family of six buy it and move in. She wants a surprise.
And what a surprise it will be, when we welcome the Colemans home at their home dedication on August 24 (Join us to celebrate–more info on our website!). Here at Habitat we have a good idea (needless to say) of what the inside of the home looks like, and we can tell you that the family is going to love it. Even better, the Colemans will pay an affordable, zero-interest mortgage (around $550 per month, including taxes and insurance), and they’ll own a home that’s safe, comfortable and sustainable. How different from their current rental apartment–and how welcome a change for them and their four children. For more information on their new home, check out the previous blog post and stay tuned for a post showcasing the finished home!
In this interview from 2010—when the Colemans entered Habitat’s homeownership program and started on their 350 hours of sweat equity work—they share their experience of applying and being accepted, issues with their current rental apartment, and what they’re most looking forward to about buying their house. Enjoy! (And join us on the 24th to welcome the family home!)
Habitat: I would imagine you first heard about Habitat Philadelphia through Kevin and Miriam [family friends and 2009 Habitat homeowners]. What about the program appealed to you as an option for your family?
Audreyelaine: Yes, we learned about the program as Kevin and Miriam went through it. Their experience learning how to manage a home, becoming financially literate and learning home repair skills – all of those things appealed to us. We knew about the 350 hours of “sweat equity” working on the construction sites that are required, and that homebuyer education classes could also count towards those hours.
Eric: It’s encouraging to see the transformation that happens on the blocks where Habitat homeowners live – on Miriam’s block alone it’s a small block, but it’s a community. People get out in the morning and clean, decorate…they care about their homes and their blocks. You see people looking out for other people. That’s not what some of these blocks were like before. Also, the zero-interest mortgage makes it more affordable than buying a home on the market.
Audreyelaine: With Habitat, you’re building communities within communities. Habitat homeowners help one another…their children grow up together. Other Habitat homeowners will be good neighbors that are trying to achieve some of the same goals we are. You don’t see this kind of support system with a conventional mortgage.
Habitat: I know you have a big family that’s going to be living in your new Habitat home. Can you tell me a little more about everyone?
Audreyelaine: We have a teenage son and three younger children: Emmaunel (18), Mylasia (12), Autumn (10), and Christopher 8). Raphael, our nephew, doesn’t live with us but he’ll be around a lot. He’s like a brother to them, and I raised him.
Habitat: Can you tell me a little about where you’re living now, and the problems with you current living situation?
Eric: We all currently live in a 3-bedroom PHA home. It’s overcrowded, and the house has ventilation issues, plumbing and electrical problems, and is infested with insects because of fire damage to a vacant house next door. After the fire next door, the property was sealed up and left alone for years, creating a serious black mold issue that landed Christopher in the hospital on several occasions.
Habitat: What are you most looking forward to about the new Habitat home you’ll be buying, and the homeownership process?
Audreyelaine: The safety and stability for our children that owning a home provides…the OWNERSHIP is the plus. The kids always have a home they can come back to. Also, I can finally do all the little things I always want to do to my apartment, but can’t—all the things I always thought about doing to my own home, the things we can do that would be there forever.
Eric: I’m just looking forward to finally getting a leg up. I was driving for Philadelphia’s public school system, to build my resume in driving, and I just was offered a new job driving for Coca-Cola. Now that I’m going to make more money, and we’re going to live in our own affordable home, we can actually start saving some money and enjoying other things in life.
Audreyelaine: There is sometimes a negative perception of people who live in public housing – but it’s not us. We both work, love and care for our kids. We’re motivated to do something to improve our lives.
Eric: I’m eager to learn how to become a successful homeowner—how you can live a better life, and make a better life for your children.
Habitat: It’s clear that owning a home is something you have both wanted and worked hard for. Emmanuel, Mylasia, Autumn, and Christopher – what are you most looking forward to about your new home?
Emmanuel: I’m looking forward to finally having my own room.
Mylasia: I want to put posters up, and have pink and purple and blue walls! I’m excited to live in a neighborhood with no shooting and no fighting—a safe neighborhood.
Christopher: I’m excited because we’re going to have red walls and a new house in a neighborhood with no biting dogs. [Christopher was bitten by a dog when he was three years old, his mom explains.]
Autumn: I want to put daisies in the window, and hang lots of Justin Bieber posters!
Audreyelaine: Personally, I can’t wait for the moment of the house dedication. Our mom’s not here to see it—she passed away a couple of months ago—but she’ll be seeing it from heaven. My sister Miriam and I are the first ones in our family to ever own a home. I just can’t wait for the sweat equity to start!
Audreyelaine and Eric have completed their 350 hours of sweat equity work on Habitat’s homebuilding sites and will sign settlement papers (and begin paying their mortgage) this month. Join us to welcome them to their new home at 1910 W. Wilt Street on Saturday, August 24 at 3:00 pm…all welcome!