A home, at last, in Westport

Habitat For Humanity unveils its first build in Westport

By Ted Hayes
Posted 6/10/24

Average home prices in Massachusetts are headed through the roof, costing countless working families the chance to stay in the town they love. But on Saturday, two ecstatic families celebrated their …

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A home, at last, in Westport

Habitat For Humanity unveils its first build in Westport


Average home prices in Massachusetts are headed through the roof, costing countless working families the chance to stay in the town they love. But on Saturday, two ecstatic families celebrated their luck in bucking that trend, and securing a home to call their own in one of the Commonwealth’s most expensive communities.

“Westport has always been our home base, all our family is here,” said Holly, one of two new homeowners who will soon move into a new duplex recently completed on Sodom Road by the Buzzards Bay Area Habitat for Humanity.

For years, the 1989 Westport High School graduate rented and never thought she’d be able to afford a home of her own in the town she’s always lived. Now, she and her children Willem and Téa feel secure — “they’ll always have a place to come home to.”

“I’m so happy,” added Beronica, who will move into the other half of the duplex with her children Ty-jeuan, Ty-nezjha and Jeannya.

“I never thought this would happen.”

Four years after Habitat For Humanity (HFH) started working with the town to fund and build its first affordable home in Westport, Holly and Beronica will purchase the deed-restricted units for approximately $170,000 each — a fraction of the cost of the many new homes currently rising along Sodom, which are selling for up to $800,000 each.

Each 1,500-square-foot unit has three bedrooms, a deck, living room, kitchen and two bathrooms. Each is built with solar technology and other energy efficiency features, and each is designed with “passive house strategies” — meaning energy costs will be extremely low.

Saturday’s dedication wasn’t just a chance for the two new homeowners to celebrate. Volunteer builders, affordable housing advocates and others who helped make the homes happen packed into Holly’s unit at 11 a.m. to celebrate the “true community effort” involved, Habitat’s executive director Christen Lacourse said.

“When we come to the end of a build, there’s just such a sense of relief that’s felt by so many,” she said. “We all worked so hard in our own ways to make this home come to fruition. And every part — like every singe part — is so important in this process.”

Without all the help from dozens and dozens of people, and the Town of Westport, she said, “we would not be standing here in these beautiful homes, about to make two families’ dreams come true.”

Westport was crucial

Saturday’s unveiling had been eagerly anticipated by members of the Westport Affordable Housing Trust, and long-time trust member Craig Dutra, recently elected to the select board, said he was thrilled to see the first affordable home dedicated. He said it’s been a long-time coming for trust members and particularly, Liz Collins, a long-time advocate and board member who, along with the late Catherine Williams, was instrumental in championing affordable housing initiatives here.

“In the last three years, Westport’s (average home price) went from $384,000 to over $550,000,” Dutra said. “This is really important when you look at those types of statistics. It really underscores the importance of what (Habitat) is doing here, and what the trust is doing here to protect and preserve affordable housing in Westport.”

“Liz has been Miss Affordable for housing in Westport as long as I can remember,” added State Representative Paul Schmid. “We really need affordable housing in Westport — our average housing costs have really jumped and it’s gotten so that it’s really hard for folks to imagine their sons and daughters being able to live in Westport. That’s a terrible thing to imagine and that’s pretty typical around the state.”

The five acres on which the duplex sits was formerly under an agricultural restriction by its previous owners, meaning they received preferential tax status as long as it was used for agriculture. When they decided to sell they were required to give the Town of Westport the right of first refusal to purchase the land, and when that happened several years ago the town sent notices to the town’s various departments to gauge interest. The housing trust expressed interest in acquiring it and purchased the land for $119,000, using Community Preservation Act funds appropriated to them at Town Meeting.

The trust issued an RFP for developers interested in developing the land for affordable housing, and decided to work with Habitat For Humanity after the organization expressed interest. Ultimately, Habitat purchased the land two years ago for the token sum of $1,000.

Since then, the town has been working hand in hand with HFH, and Westport has contributed additional funds to help make the duplex a reality.

Sweat equity

As happens with many Habitat builds, the help went much beyond financial. Since they started in Westport, LaCourse said, dozens and dozens of volunteers helped with the build, and building, materials and other organizations donated their services as well. In some cases, Habitat officials didn’t even have to ask — the owner of one crane company happened to be driving by one day early in the building process, saw the work and who was doing it, and later called up to offer his services free of charge.

Holly and Beronica helped too, as part of their requirement for buying from Habitat is that they contribute hundreds of hours of sweat equity. Both were there mostly every weekend for the past two years and they grew close — the two mothers held hands for much of the dedication ceremony.

“I’ll miss it,” Holly said of her weekends helping out with Beronica and countless volunteers. “It’s just amazing and we’re so happy.”


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