4 Families Get Keys to A New, Better Life

Monday, July 23, 2007


Four Bergen County families were handed the keys to a new life Sunday -- a new life as homeowners.

And the mayor of Englewood is hoping the families, the owners of four Habitat for Humanity homes on Third Street , will bring new life to what used to be a rundown corner of the city's 4th Ward.

"They'll be good neighbors," said Mayor Michael Wildes . "They take pride in their homes. They'll be good community watchers and good citizens."

The cul-de-sac at the end of Third Street , which eventually will be the new address for nine Habitat homes, borders Mackay Park . It used to be the home of abandoned lots littered with drug paraphernalia and the site of "rampant prostitution," Wildes said. "Now," he said, "it's being shined as the diamond in the rough."

The city designated the property a redevelopment zone and helped Habitat for Humanity to acquire the land. Habitat, in turn, listened to Wildes' and other city officials' suggestions on how to make the homes more neighborly. Front porches were added to the original designs to give them "more charm" and to encourage the owners to sit outside and get to know their neighbors.

Habitat for Humanity volunteers and Wildes held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the front door of each of four town homes, and handed the keys to four families who had been waiting for that moment for more than two years. The families won't move in until mid-August, after they close on the mortgages for their homes.

Habitat helps low-income families become homeowners in high-cost Bergen County by arranging for them to purchase Habitat-built homes without a down payment and with a no-interest mortgage at below-market prices. The families also must contribute at least 400 hours of "sweat equity" during the building of their homes.

"We've done everything, from spackling and sheetrocking to sweeping and cleaning," said Nina Darbouze, who will move into one of the town homes with her husband, Gerald, and their five children. "From the very toughest to the very easiest jobs, we've done it."

Gerald Darbouze said he believes his family and the other Habitat families will improve the neighborhood. "We feel we can do that. Through Christ, everything's possible," he said.

The Darbouzes' paster, Iris Butler of the True Vine Christian Center in Fair Lawn , blessed their home after the ribbon was cut. "Thank you, Lord, that you opened up doors for the Darbouze family for them to obtain property," she prayed.

The Darbouzes already know the neighbor who owns the other duplex in their town home. Monique Anderson worked side by side with them as the house was being built and her three children attend the same schools as the Darbouze children.

Anderson said one of the first things she plans to do after moving in is to start a garden, something she was unable to do in her former home, a rental in a three-family house. She's also looking forward to being able to decorate, paint the walls any color she wants and have a pet without fear of eviction.

"It will be a place where we can sit down and say, 'This is ours,' " she said.

E-mail: verdon@northjersey.com

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Fast facts
• Habitat for Humanity has built 12 homes in Bergen County : four in Englewood , four in Hackensack , two in Teaneck and two in East Rutherford .
• The Englewood homes cost $150,000 each to build.
• Each family will have a $115,000, interest-free mortgage on its home. Habitat will hold the mortgage, and the families are required to make the monthly mortgage payments.
• There is a 99-year deed restriction on the homes that requires them to remain as affordable housing.

• To qualify for a Habitat home, a family of four must have an annual income between $23,000 and $39,000, perform at least 400 hours of "sweat equity" during the construction of the home and be selected by a committee of volunteers.
• Habitat for Humanity of Bergen County was founded in 1994.


Reproduced from The Record
Monday, July 23, 2007
by Michael J. Wildes, Mayor, City of Englewood
2-10 N. Van Brunt Street
Englewood , NJ 07631




Paid for by Friends of Michael J. Wildes For Mayor, Assemblyman Arnold Brown, Treasurer

250 Allison Court, Englewood, NJ 07631