In Bergenfield, a now vacant, grassy lot located behind Bergenfield’s Brookview Gardens condominium complex will soon feature a sleek two-story, three-bedroom home replete with solar panels and other energy-efficient fixings. This Bergenfield home will be the 25th home that Habitat for Humanity of Bergen County has built or renovated since the organization’s founding in 1994, said Executive Director Jacey Raimondo. The roughly 6,000-foot lot on Bergen Avenue was donated by the Franklin Lakes-based Jose Garcia Foundation.
Typical of Habitat for Humanity’s projects, the home will be sold to a low-income family, who will then pay an interest-free mortgage to Habitat. The organization does not charge a down payment for its homes, but instead, the families put in hundreds of hours of sweat equity in the form of work on their own property or on other Habitat initiatives. Habitat for Humanity staff members said that they expect to identify a family to buy the Bergenfield home by March and that construction would take about 14 months.
According to Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of Bergen County, Jacey Raimondo, the money for professional services and materials was given by an anonymous donor and the construction of the house, except for plumbing, electrical, masonry and roofing work, will be completed by beneficiaries of the program as well as volunteers like eighty-year-old Don Bozzone who has been volunteering with Habitat for Humanity for 18 years.
Jacey Raimondo feels that there is a tremendous need for affordable housing in Bergen County and Habitat for Humanity tries to meet that need in as many parts of Bergen County as possible.
“A lot of people who work in Bergen County can’t afford to live in Bergen County because of how expensive it is in terms of real estate taxes,” said Raimondo. “So people are living in substandard rental housing in Bergen County. It’s bad for kids. It’s bad for family dynamics.”
After Hurricane Sandy, for example, the Habitat for Humanity staff and volunteers spent more than two years performing about 80 critical home repairs in Little Ferry, Moonachie and South Hackensack.
Bergenfield Mayor Norman Schmelz, joined by Assemblyman Tim Eustace, D-Maywood; Freeholders Steve Tanelli and Thomas Sullivan, Jr.; and Bergenfield Councilman Charles Steinel, used a ribbon-wrapped shovel to move the project’s first dirt.
The biggest impediment to building, Raimondo said, “is we don’t have enough land.”
“I’m happy they’re building in Bergenfield, and you know what, I’m going to talk to the council and see if we can find any other strips of property that we may be able to either sell or donate,” said Mayor Schmelz.