America Street Homeowner Meagan Jordan

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On Sunday, June 5, Meagan Jordan had a big surprise for her son, Cy.

Arriving at Zephyr Field for Habitat Day, she told him he would be throwing out the first pitch at the game. With some of his teammates there and a stadium of Zephyrs fans watching, he hesitated, but he quickly overcame his nerves and sent the ball over home plate.

Meagan said, “He was like, ‘But I didn’t prepare for it,’ and I said, ‘Well it’s nothing to prepare for. I picked you because I knew you were capable of doing it. So that’s why. You’re already prepared. You’re only nervous because it’s in front of a lot of people.’ His teammates were there, so it worked out. We enjoyed it.”

She and her son will soon be moving into a home on America Street, one of ten homes to be dedicated in the neighborhood on Saturday, June 25. The opportunity to throw out the first pitch came when she heard about Habitat Day and asked ReStore Director Wesley Griffin if her son, who is an avid athlete, could be the one to do it. Having worked with Meagan during her sweat equity hours in the ReStore, he was delighted to oblige.

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Meagan began her journey to homeownership years ago, seeking to buy through traditional lenders before personal tragedy set her back. A friend of hers in the Habitat program explained how it worked, and even her realtor at the time suggested she try the program.

“The realtor who I was going to, she said, ‘I think that this would be a best fit for you. Regardless of how you get it, it’s still your home,'” Meagan said. “She told me there were other programs within the city, so before I chose Habitat I did do my homework. What Habitat offers, they don’t offer. And what they offer, Habitat may not do the same. But this was the best program for me, and I’m glad that I made the choice.”

Of the many difference between Habitat and traditional lenders, the sweat equity requirements are one of the most significant. Instead of saving up a down payment, New Orleans Habitat homeowners work 350 hours in the ReStore and on the build site, spending their last 100 hours working on their own home. The work is not easy, but in the end, it changes how homeownership is perceived.

“It will be different because I can say I actually worked on it,” she said. “And honestly, I did like working on the houses. It just gave me a little peace of mind to actually do it. Some people don’t have to go through that process. It’s already done. They just have to come, check, and go. Those Saturdays got long, but I can honestly say that I really enjoyed it.

“I’ve always been hands-on. Like you know how you have your dad, and… my little brother would be playing video games, and I’m like, ‘Daddy, show me how to do that.’ And he was like, ‘but you’re not supposed to be in here. You’re supposed to be playing and he’s supposed to be asking how to do things.’ That’s just me. I always was like that. Show me how to do it, because one day you’re not gonna be here, and I’m going to have to figure it out myself. So he’d get in there and show me. Do this. Do that. So if I can’t figure it out, then I’ll call somebody.”

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She was compelled to buy her own home because of rising rents. After Hurricane Katrina, rents have risen 46% in the city, making it difficult to find affordable housing. Finding the Habitat program allowed her to buy a home with a monthly payment that will not be more than a third of her income. Now that she’s in the program, Meagan tells everyone about it.

“I tell people about it,” she said. “[Meagan’s case manager] Emily was saying one lady told her I had told her about the program, and I don’t even know the lady! A couple people came who I’ve been talking to. It’s just in general conversation. [One person I talked to] was like, ‘I’m too young.’ And I was like, ‘Too young to do what? Who said you were too young? No, you’re not.’ And then they have another girl, one of my friends, she asked me, ‘Well, how does it work?’ And I get asked that because people don’t really understand it, so they don’t know. They think that you have to be making no money at all, and it’s not like that… I know a lot of people can’t afford rent now, but what do you do? You buy a house that you can afford.”

Meagan and Cy’s home will be on America Street, in the same neighborhood as the ten homes completed during last year’s Build-A-Thon, and it will be dedicated with another ten homes completed there, including several that have transformed an entire block of America Street from empty lots to a soon-to-be thriving neighborhood full of families.

“He’s excited,” she said. “His biggest thing is he wanted to help work on the house… but I told him we have a whole bunch of projects and a lifetime to do them.”