[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

#4894: Agency assists new Haitian homeowners (fwd)

From: nozier@tradewind.net

Published Sunday, August 13, 2000, in the Miami Herald NORTH MIAMI
 Agency assists new Haitian homeowners BY KERLINE ASTRE 

 Leomene Pierre knows firsthand about realizing her dreams. The North
Miami resident purchased a house in 1994 thanks to the Little Haiti
 Housing Association, a community-based organization that specializes in
helping low-income families become homeowners. ``We are a special
community with special needs. Haitian people don't just have
 immigration problems,'' said Vayola Hercules, the agency's director of
 developmental resources. The housing association's latest success story
is a 33 two- and three-bedroom town house development at 14600 NE Third
Ct. in North Miami. The units will help others like Pierre become
homeowners. After two years of construction, a ribbon cutting was held
July 19 for the development. North Miami Mayor Frank Wolland and
Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas attended.

 At 181 NE 82nd St., the housing association has been in operation since
the late 1980s. The housing agency's mission is to promote and support
self-reliance by providing affordable housing, thus helping to improve
the lives of Little Haiti residents. ``Housing is a problem everywhere,
but as a city, ours is above the average,'' Hercules said. ``And at our
organization we work toward remedying that problem.'' More specifically,
the agency buys houses from sources such as the federal Housing and
Urban Development Department. The homes are repaired, renovated and then
resold at below-market prices. In addition, the organization also builds
new homes.
 Although the agency caters predominantly to the Haitian community, it
serves any South Florida resident. ``Anybody who hears about us can walk
in,'' Hercules said. To qualify, those seeking assistance must set up a
meeting with one of the organization's counselors who explain the
requirements for the program. Those who meet the criteria must attend a
six-week Home Ownership Education course during which prospective buyers
are briefed on budgeting techniques, home maintenance and developing
good credit. Those who complete the course are given certificates. ``At
this point, we are confident they are able to own homes,'' said Antoine
 Auguste, the housing agency's executive director. Usually, if the
client is not ready to buy, LHHA provides the alternative of renting,
 which is also done at a low cost. Clients must still complete a similar
course that addresses the same topics, including a basic overview on the
rights and responsibilities of the tenant/landlord. Once clients become
homeowners, a Post Purchasers Program enables them to get information if
they encounter any problems. In addition to its home ownership
initiatives, the organization also sponsors an after-school program at
the agency's office in Little Haiti. 

 This gives their parents an opportunity to work so that they may be
able to maintain their homes. ``Our goal is to help as many people as we
can,'' said Hercules. ``We set goals every year and work diligently to
achieve them.'' This year's goal was to graduate 500 families. So far it
successfully has helped 235.  The next project is 15 condos and town
houses at Biscayne East -- an area within a 12-block radius of 650-677
NE 63rd St. ``Because of the Little Haiti Housing Association, I now
live comfortably,'' said Pierre, one of the agency's first clients.
Since buying her home, she has gotten her high school diploma and is now
an association board member. She lives with her three children in a
large three-bedroom home she obtained through the housing group.  ``I
recommend their services to anyone. They are good at what they do and I
wish them continued success,'' Pierre said.
 For more information on the Little Haiti Housing Association, call