Brittany L. Lavoie, 32, arrived in Falmouth with nothing but a duffle bag. Seven years later, she and her 5-year-old son, Parker, live in a home she owns on Willet Way in East Falmouth.
“It feels surreal, just because of where we came from,” Ms. Lavoie said on Monday, May 8,as Parker played in their front yard before school. “This was all of my hard work coming to fruition, since I found out I was pregnant with my son.”
Ms. Lavoie grew up in North Attleboro, although not in a house like her son will, she said. She struggled with substance use and moved first to Florida, then to Falmouth, for access to recovery centers. She spent her first two years on Cape Cod “bouncing around” sober houses. Then, she found out she was pregnant.
She was working 75 hours a week with Vinfen, a company which supports people with developmental disabilities and mental health conditions. And now she had a newborn son. The couple downstairs lived on two incomes, she said, but she still paid half the rent.
“I had nowhere else to go,” Ms. Lavoie said.
After seven months, she moved to a 500-square-foot studio apartment in East Falmouth with Parker and worked full-time to cover rent on her own.
Parker’s father pays child support and takes him on the weekends, so she can work. When Parker was two years old, they moved to a two-bedroom apartment on Main Street, where rent was $2,000 a month, not including utilities.
Ms. Lavoie said she was on the verge of leaving Falmouth, even though she did not want to: her recovery network is in Falmouth and her job is rewarding. She helps people who are beginning their journey of recovery, and people struggling with domestic violence or homelessness. Through her job, she built a strong community that she loves. But she was dipping into her savings to cover rent, and her savings began to run low.
“I was holding on by the skin of my teeth,” Ms. Lavoie said.
Ms. Lavoie spent years on many housing wait lists, including that of the Falmouth Housing Authority. Her income bumped her over the limit to qualify for housing vouchers, she said. She applied to six housing lotteries, some as far away as Plymouth. Then, she applied for a housing lottery with Habitat For Humanity Cape Cod.
To qualify for the lottery, she had to provide significant financial history documentation, be able to fund a downpayment, be pre-approved for a mortgage, pass a background check, have minimal debt, and fall within a low-income bracket of roughly $44,000 to $58,000 a year, Ms. Lavoie said. The application included a cover letter, which she had to write while battling a case of COVID-19 to make the deadline.
Ms. Lavoie and her son were selected to win a home on a Habitat for Humanity of Cape Cod build in East Falmouth. The market value of the home is $400,000, Ms. Lavoie said, but she is paying half that. Her monthly mortgage payments are just under $1,000 a month.
Her home is one of a 10-home development, all owned by single moms who won the Habitat for Humanity lottery. Every weekend since December 2021, Ms. Lavoie and the other mothers came to the neighborhood to build their homes with the help of volunteer construction crews and supervisors, who showed them everything from how to shingle a home to maintain solar panels.
Ms. Lavoie said when the walls were raised, Parker thought it was for a pirate ship. He was not quite able to conceptualize the idea that his house was being built, she said.
“I’ve been here since they dug the hole and laid the foundation,” Ms. Lavoie said. “I put these shingles on. It makes me feel beyond grateful to have that experience.”
Six of the homes, including Ms. Lavoie’s house, were finished and dedicated to the families in a ceremony in late April. She and Parker moved in the week before the dedication. Local churches put together gift baskets to welcome the families to their new homes, and volunteers made unique quilts for each homeowner, matching the color of their homes. Ms. Lavoie let Parker pick the color of their house: a deep, rustic maroon.
The remaining three homes in the neighborhood still under construction are scheduled to be finished this summer. Construction supervisor Barry Clickstein said he hopes the houses will be finished, so the families can move in before school starts in September.
Every house in the neighborhood will stay affordable even when sold. Ms. Lavoie and the other homeowners spoke about the tight-knit community that formed as they built their houses together. They share recipes and their children play together. Ms. Lavoie is planning to plant an organic garden on her property.
“It feels like an opportunity that a lot of people don’t get,” Ms. Lavoie said. “Everything that I never had, Parker is able to have now.”