, Salem, MA

September 21, 2013

A place to call home in Danvers

Town set to celebrate first Habitat project


---- — DANVERS — Two weeks ago, the Pacheco/Suriel family moved from Salem into their own “quiet” corner of the American dream: A new condominium in a duplex building constructed by Habitat for Humanity North Shore.

The new affordable housing project occupies a portion of the old grassy playground of the former Danversport School at 26 Mill St. It’s the first time Habitat for Humanity North Shore has built a project in town.

The home is a dream come true for a family of hardworking immigrants from the Dominican Republic — Roberto Pacheco, 38, who works for Travel Leather in Peabody; his wife, Angela Suriel, 37, a cook at Bertucci’s in Vinnin Square in Swampscott; and their two children.

The home was finished in time to allow their son, Robert Pacheco, 10, to start fifth grade at the Riverside School, and daughter, Isaura Pacheco, 14, to start high school at the newly renovated Danvers High.

“I like the living room because I like how it’s decorated,” Isaura said.

Robert likes his new room “because I have fun in there.”

The family previously lived in an apartment on Congress Street in Salem. Now they live in a brightly painted three-bedroom, 1,200-square-foot condo with a large kitchen and living area, an unfinished basement and plenty of room for storage in the attic.

“It’s big,” said Robert about his new home, which will be on display to the public tomorrow at 2 p.m. during an open house and dedication ceremony.

“You have to be lucky to get one of these houses, many people qualified, but not many people get it,” Pacheco said. He said he might have been able to afford a home on his own, but not a brand new one.

Last year, Town Meeting and the Zoning Board of Appeals gave approvals to allow the Danvers Housing Authority to sell the 15,000-square-foot plot to Habitat for $1 to build the two affordable condos. The building features a large front porch for both units.

The condos sold for $125,000 each, well below the $301,000 median price for market-rate Danvers condos in June, according to figures from the Warren Group.

The 30-year mortgage is interest free, said Jackie McKenna, a bookkeeper, grant writer and board member for Habitat for Humanity North Shore. Owners also pay maintenance, property taxes and insurance to Habitat in one lump sum. Habitat, in turn, pays the families’ taxes, mortgage, maintenance and insurance.

“Their monthly bill will be about $680,” McKenna said.

There are strict guidelines owners must meet, McKenna said, and outside agencies that provide grants also have guidelines. The family also had to go before a family selection committee, which reviews credit scores, and had to be U.S. citizens.

The homes were built through volunteer labor, donations from businesses, and “sweat equity.”

About 20 volunteers worked every Saturday for roughly a year, many of them made up of corporate groups looking to do community service.

On Wednesdays, 10 volunteers also worked on the home. A site supervisor watched over the volunteer crews, and licensed contractors poured the cement foundation and installed the roof, among other things. The framing, painting, flooring, drainage work, ditch digging and other work was done by volunteers, McKenna said.

“It’s a community that builds these houses,” said Don Preston, president of Habitat for Humanity North Shore.

Pacheco personally put in 500 hours building his new home, 100 more hours than was required of him.

“Roberto was a pleasure, he worked on the foundation in that house,” said Preston, and everything else, too. “It was positive for us and all our volunteers. What is especially good is when the volunteers can work beside the homeowner.”

Private donations also helped make the home.

Life Scout Daniel Tremblay of Boy Scout Troop 88 in Peabody, along with friends and family, installed the house’s red-brick walkway as part of an Eagle Scout service project. Wells Fargo donated the washer and dryer and Boston Fence of Beverly donated the split rail fence along Mill Street. Architect J. Michael Sullivan of Beacon Architectural Associates of Boston and a Salem resident donated his design services.

Kevin Noyes, vice president, community development and CRA officer at People’s United Bank, said the Danversbank Charitable Foundation donated $25,000 over two years for the project.

“It was nice to be able to do an affordable housing project for Danvers,” said Noyes, who is director of the charitable foundation.

Growing up in Danvers, Noyes attended the former Port School, and the house next door to the playground used to belong to his grandmother.

“This whole area has such great memories and it is so exciting to see,” he said.

Habitat for Humanity North Shore’s territory runs from Lynn to Rowley. Other homes have been built in Salem, Beverly, Peabody and Lynn, Preston said.

“The goal is to build in every community,” said Preston, to increase the stock of affordable homes and raise awareness about the program.

IF YOU GO What: Open house, house blessings and dedication for Habitat for Humanity North Shore's Danvers project When: Sunday, Sept. 22, 2 p.m. Where: 26 Mill St., Danvers Information: