Habitat Home “life changing”

Wednesday, September 14, 2016 7:28:31 EDT PM

Luke Hendry/The Intelligencer Habitat for Humanity’s Bob Clute joins Anita Ramji and her children, Rafi and Liberty, outside the trio’s new home in Belleville Wednesday. “It’s a new beginning for us,” Ramji said. It’s the fourth home presented this year to a local family by Habitat’s Prince Edward-Hastings branch.

A Belleville family has opened the doors to a new home – and with it, a new life.

Anita Ramji and her two children, Rafi, 8, and Liberty, 13, received the keys Thursday to their Habitat for Humanity home.

“This is life-changing. I feel like I won the lottery,” Ramji said.

“I just thought I would be a renter for the rest of my life and I would never have anything.

“This will create a good foundation for my children,” she said.

“We’re going to create memories. It’s a new beginning for us.

“It’s very surreal. It’s very eye-opening and I’m very grateful and very blessed.”

It’s the fourth of an expected five homes to be presented this year by Habitat’s Prince Edward-Hastings branch, executive director Bob Clute said.

“This is a pivotal year,” he said, noting Habitat in the past built and presented only one home per year. Now there is a new one in both Bancroft, another in Trenton, and a third just down the Golfdale Road from Ramji’s bungalow. The fifth is underway in Trenton.

Clute said there is a “huge” demand “for affordable housing for hardworking people who otherwise couldn’t afford a down payment.” Recipients are chosen for many factors, including unsafe or unhealthy living environments due to mold, overcrowding, high-crime areas and more.

There are an estimated 6,000 such families spread between Belleville and Quinte West, he said.

“Our plan over the next five years is to build five homes a year. It is ambitious but I think we’ve proven we can do it again,” said Clute.

As with the last two Belleville homes, he said, “When we look for property we’re going to look for multiple lots in proximity to each other so we deploy our assets more effectively.”

Ramji’s family put in 500 hours of work; CFB Trenton personnel logged 250 more hours.

Clute said the homes are built to be energy-efficient, lowering the operating costs.

There are no interest payments or down payment required for Habitat homes and the monthly mortgage payments, including property taxes, are set at no more than 25 per cent of the family’s income. Hastings County data shows 42 per cent of renters in Belleville and Quinte West spend more than 30 per cent of their incomes on rent.

Clute said recipients such as Ramji are “superstars” who simply need some help.

Ramji, a personal trainer, said a client told her about Habitat about 18 months ago. She filled out the paperwork but didn’t expect to get a house.

“It’s so exciting, but I’m scared,” said Ramji, a personal trainer. “This is a big deal. I’m now going to be a homeowner.

“I didn’t think after my divorce it would ever happen,” she said. The divorce, and the start of her job as a trainer, happened seven years ago.

“We haven’t had very much of anything and I’ve worked multiple jobs to have the little that we have.”

The savings found by owning instead of renting will give her family a better life, she said.

“I’ve never been able to afford a lot of extras for my children. It’s not that they go without, but … we live within our means.

“It will be really nice not to eat the same food all the time because you can’t afford to eat anything else.”

She said she hopes to be able to buy her children new clothes and possibly enroll them in sports – and maybe take a holiday after years of being unable to take time away from work.

Ramji encouraged other people to apply for Habitat homes.

“Don’t be afraid of rejection if it doesn’t happen. You will never know unless you try.

“They’re a family and they treat you like you’re part of their family.

“It has made me realize that there are amazing people in this world and they just want to help people.”

Ramji said she had decided previously to make 2016 a year for doing things she’d earlier been afraid to do. Having a home of her own adds to that commitment, she said.

“It really makes me feel like I can do anything now.”

For more on Habitat for Humanity, visit habitatpeh.org or call 613-962-7526.