Jennifer and Olivia are both Cape Cod natives who planned to raise their children near family in the community they grew up in and loved. Now after working alongside Habitat for Humanity of Cape Cod to build their own homes, that dream has come true.
Since moving into her Habitat home, Jennifer loves taking her 3-year-old son, Jax, outside. “The moment that means the most to me is sitting on my front porch watching my son play with a friend from the neighborhood,” says Jennifer, who works as a kitchen manager at a local restaurant. “I feel totally at peace with life because I finally accomplished something that I had been dreaming about – watching my son play in his own yard.”
That feeling of peace is shared by Olivia who recently moved into her own Habitat home with her daughters, 11-year-old Laveah and 8-year-old Tahlia. “I don’t have to worry about not being able to give them a roof over their head or my rent being raised,” Olivia says. “It’s just a calming reassurance that we’re going to be okay.” Jennifer is elated to have a safe place for her son, Jax, to play now that they’ve moved into their Habitat home. “The moment that means the most to me is sitting on my front porch watching my son play with a friend from the neighborhood,” Jennifer says.
When Jennifer became pregnant, she and her partner, Felix, lived in an unsafe neighborhood in an apartment that had mold issues and rats. Finding a safe and affordable home in the area during that time, in the early days of the COVID pandemic, was impossible. The couple decided to move in with Jennifer’s parents to protect the health of their baby. “You cannot afford to work here and afford to live here because the cost of living is so much higher than what you make at a full-time job,” Jennifer says. “You and your partner have to work two or three jobs just to make enough to pay for a mortgage.”
Though Olivia had found a decent income-based apartment for her family, rent increases made it hard for her to save for a home of her own. “I’d been trying to do overtime to make a little bit more money, but when I made more, my rent went up,” says Olivia, who is a care provider at a group home for adults with intellectual disabilities.
I don’t have to worry about not being able to give them a roof over their head or my rent being raised. It’s just a calming reassurance that we’re going to be okay.
Now that they have homes where they can pay affordable mortgages, both Jennifer and Olivia are excited about the bright future ahead. Wendy Cullinan, Habitat Cape Cod president and CEO, says having fully electric homes with solar panels installed will play a big part in keeping costs affordable for the new homeowners.
“Building safe, affordable and sustainable homes benefits families and our environment,” Wendy says. “We were able to install solar panels on Jennifer and Olivia’s homes with the support of a BuildBetter with Whirlpool grant. Those solar panels will help lower their monthly utility costs and create a pathway for even greater financial security.” Olivia’s daughters, Tahlia (left) and Laveah, have their own rooms and plenty of space to grow and thrive in their new Habitat home.
“To not have to worry about having so many different house-related bills because you have solar panels on your roof taking care of everything. I mean that’s amazing. It’s a huge stress relief,” Jennifer says.
The BuildBetter with Whirlpool initiative builds upon Habitat’s current efforts to help homeowners mitigate the impacts of climate change with more energy-efficient and disaster-resilient homes. Grants like the one that funded Jennifer and Olivia’s solar panels are intended to help promote safe and sustainable building across the U.S.
Now that they have the strong foundation of affordable homeownership, Olivia and Jennifer are excited about working on their next goals. Olivia is planning to focus on advancing her career. “Now that I have the stability, I can take more classes and get a degree. I would love to do something in the behavioral health field,” she says.
Jennifer is looking forward to completing her schooling, too. “I’ve wanted to go back and finish my management degree at school,” she says. “I think that I can actually do that because now I can afford to pay for my last few classes to get my degree. That’s huge because I’ve wanted it forever.”