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Two new houses sold to low-income families

Paul Tuthill
This new house on Jefferson Avenue in Springfield's North End was sold to a low income family picked by lottery

Lottery was used to pick eligible buyers

Christmas came early for two families in Springfield, Massachusetts today as they were selected in a lottery to become first-time homebuyers.

When she saw a news story a couple of months ago that the city of Springfield and a social service agency planned to sell two brand new single-family homes in the North End neighborhood to low income families for prices well below the market rate, Luz Ramos told her husband she was going to put in an application.

It took her three days to do all the paperwork and then she said she left in God’s hands. Her prayers were answered Monday morning when Mayor Domenic Sarno picked the winners’ names from a lottery drum.

“Thank you Heavenly Father, this house is for us,” Ramos exclaimed.

Ramos will buy the house at 111 Jefferson Avenue, where the lottery was held. The second name drawn, Fikiri Amisi gets to buy a nearly identical new house at 45 Bancroft Street.

“This was my dream for a long time,” Amisi said.

The houses were developed by the New North Citizens Council’s North End Housing Initiative using federal funds. They were built on vacant lots previously owned by the city.

To qualify, the maximum annual household income cannot exceed 80 percent of the Area Median Income, which for a family of four is $67,300.

The house at 111 Jefferson is selling for $190,000 and the one on Bancroft Street is going for $10,000 less because it does not have an attached garage.

Both properties are likely to appraise for at least $300,000, meaning the new owners will start with a large equity stake, said Robert DeMusis, the deputy director of the city’s Office of Housing.

“It’s an incredible opportunity,” he said. “It is a beautiful house, Energy Star rated, and for less than the price of today’s rents.”

Despite the opportunity to get instant equity in a new house and begin to build generational wealth, just four people applied.

“We announced this in late October and I don’t think we were short on time, but (next time) we’ll try to get the word out a little sooner,” DeMusis said.

Jose Claudio, the chief operating officer for the New North Citizens Council, said they plan to build more new homes for low-income buyers.

“It is a win-win for the city and a win-win for every neighborhood that you can build home ownership,” Claudio said.

City housing officials said ground will be broken in the spring to build four more similar houses in the Maple High/Six Corners neighborhood.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.