quanedral-roberts_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

FORT LAUDERDALE — Three Broward County families have realized their dreams of homeownership, thanks to an ongoing partnership between Habitat for Humanity and JM Family Enterprises. Bridgett Gay, Quanedral Roberts and Julia Delgado Benitez got keys to their homes Saturday. “We were renting in Hollywood before,” Gay said. “It wasn’t ours and I wasn’t really happy about that. But coming home to a place that’s ours creates a solid foundation. My son is happy and can now learn the value of having a home.”

Roberts said she moved her family “at least four times over the past few years” and “owning was my ultimate goal. My family now has a place to stay permanently.”

Benitez had been homeless since 2004, when her daughter was an infant, she said. “I had no family here. They were all in Cuba. I started working here and there, had a small apartment at times. But I knew that possibility of things getting better was close.”

The three women enrolled in 2009 in Habitat for Humanity of Broward’s first-time homebuyers program. After a two-year wait, the foundations for each home, located in the 300 block of Northeast 32nd Street in Oakland Park, were laid last November. Gay, Roberts and Benitez began working alongside 117 employees of JM Family Enterprises one Saturday each month to build their LEED-certified homes, providing “sweat equity” as required by Habitat.

“The homeowners worked side by side doing the heaviest, dirtiest work ever on these homes. It’s a pleasure to witness their success,” said Colin Brown, JM Family president and CEO.

Brown spoke during a Home Dedication Ceremony hosted by JM Family Enterprises and Habitat for Humanity of Broward. Each family got a symbolic golden key to their homes symbolizing ownership.

Habitat has so far built 323 homes in Broward County, according to the organization’s board chairman Robert Leider.

JM Family Enterprises contributes $75,000 per home each year to Habitat, according to Habitat’s executive director Perry Ecton. Construction costs for each home total $85,000, not including the price of the land. The homes are then sold to the families at their appraised value. The families pay 30 percent of their incomes over a 30-year period on an interest-free mortgage, Ecoton said.

The payment covers the principal, tax and insurance. Habitat covers the closing costs and the families contribute a $1,500 down payment but can get down payment assistance.

“Habitat is the bank,” Ecton said. “The families pay dollar for dollar for the homes. The money is then reinvested in the next home.”

Cynthia Roby may be reached at CynthiaRoby@bellsouth.net

Photo: Quanedral Roberts