Alisia Gonzales-Hankins lives with her daughter and three sons in a house in northeast Portland that they’ve rented for 12 years. Alejandra is 19, Dominique is 15, and her twins, DeMario and DeMarco, are 6. Over the years, their neighborhood has become much more affluent than it was when they first arrived. Rents in the neighborhood have doubled, but Alisia has managed to keep her rent low by not complaining about things that are wrong with the home.
They recently found out that the house has lead-based paint, which the twins have been exposed to. The soil also tested positive for lead, and now they cannot use it for gardening. The bathroom has mold on the ceiling and most of the pipes throughout the home are rusted. Aside from these problems, the house is too small and cramped for the number of people in their family.
“I’m stuck,” Alisia said. “I won’t be able to find anything affordable in this neighborhood anymore, so it’s better to keep my mouth shut and keep a roof over my head.”
After learning about the lead paint problems, Alisia, who works as a medical assistant, decided to explore housing options and applied to Habitat for Humanity.
“It was time for ownership,” Alisia said. “Habitat’s no-interest mortgage and sweat equity program is very, very appealing. I am looking forward to saving money, and I know how lucky I am to have this opportunity.”
Alisia and her family will be one of the first six families to move into Habitat’s Rivergate Commons neighborhood in North Portland. The Campbell Group, a first-time sponsor, has committed to raise the funds needed to build this home.
“I’m excited to move into something that is new and that I can call my own,” Alisia said. “I’m familiar with the area, and I’ve already met a few of my neighbors. It will be nice to live in a close community and be able to garden without fear of lead in your food.”
Although construction on the homes was recently started, a community garden has already been established at Rivergate Commons and is ready to welcome the new homeowners.