First Moorestown Habitat house breaks ground

Sitting behind a set of railroad tracks, an overgrown, uneven plot of land will soon be used to support a home.

The goal is to get the building done by the end of the calendar year,” Habitat for Humanity Burlington Executive Director Todd Ermer said.

The Habitat for Humanity Burlington County held its groundbreaking ceremony at 45 E. 3rd Street on Sunday, July 29, making it the first Habitat for Humanity home in Moorestown.

Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit organization with the purpose of providing low- to moderate-income people with affordable homes. Specifically, the New Jersey Affiliate of Habitat for Humanity has served the Burlington County community since 1987.

Kayla and James Lyons, who currently reside in Maple Shade, are the lucky siblings who are getting a chance to be homeowners.

According to Ermer, every family that applies for the Affordable Homeowners Program needs to meet certain criteria. Each family, or individual, must currently live in substandard housing that is unaffordable and overcrowded or unsafe. The family must also fall within specific income guidelines according to family size.

The application process usually takes about three months. The applicant must be willing to spend 250 hours per family member in “sweat equity,” and gather the closing costs before building the home, according to the Habitat for Humanity Burlington website.

The brother and sister duo were smiling from ear to ear as they drove a shovel into the soil of their newly acquired property.

“We just found out that we got the property on Tuesday,” Lyons said.

Lyons still couldn’t believe the opportunity they were given. They never thought it was possible and called the ceremony and news “surreal.”

One important step for the program was not only finding the family for the home, but where to build it and how the Lyons will pay for it.

The program purchased the land from First Colonial National Bank at an inexpensive price and is offering the siblings a zero percent interest rate on their mortgage. The house is also being sold to the Lyons below market value.

Ermer explained that all families who are a part of the program pay off the loan, at a 0 percent interest rate, to Habitat for Humanity Burlington. Habitat for Humanity acts as the middle man, to ensure that the family is able to sustain an affordable lifestyle.

Thrivent Financial played a big role in this project, providing $100,000 toward the build.

Thrivent Financial Associate, Dennis Lojek, heard about the siblings but the ceremony was the first time he actually met them. He is looking forward to helping out as much as he can and stands by the program’s purpose.

“This is a hand-up, not a hand-down,” said Lojek. “People think we give them the house [but] they actually work on the house and pay for it.”

Local volunteers, friends and family members are the expanding backbone for this build. Ermer said that they don’t have a lot of recruitment efforts, but the people from the community know about the program and come out to help.

With local support, the Lyons new home is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

“Without our many contributors, we would not be able to sustain,” Ermer said.

For more information on Habitat for Humanity Burlington County or to become a volunteer visit www.habitatbcnj.org.