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Habitat for Humanity delivers a home for first-time buyer in Peabody

Peter Bradford of Gloucester works in a Peabody home that is being renovated by Habitat for Humanity. (Spenser R. Hasak)

PEABODY Jade Ventura is celebrating another milestone. 

The mother of three, who was the first in her family to graduate high school and college, recently moved into her first home.

“It’s a dream come true,” she said. “I’ve waited my whole life to have my own place and tell my kids we won’t be uprooted ever again by a landlord.”

After three tries, Ventura, whose name has been changed to protect her identity from a domestic abuser, hit the jackpot. But she wasn’t a $1 million scratch ticket winner from the Massachusetts State Lottery. 

One year ago, the 31-year-old social worker’s name was pulled from a Habitat for Humanity North Shore basket filled with two dozen other hopeful families. Her prize? The chance to buy a remodeled, four-bedroom home near downtown for $125,000. After a $3,000 down payment, the family’s monthly mortgage is just $724.

If the 1,400-square-foot home was being sold by anyone other than the nonprofit, whose mission is to bring volunteers together to build homes for the needy, it would have cost twice that.

“I don’t know what would’ve happened to us if this opportunity had not come up,” Ventura said.

It hasn’t been easy. After being battered, she set herself free, found love again, and was recently married. 

As a mother of a child with autism, she had challenges living in an apartment.

“My son often wakes up screaming at 5 or 6 in the morning,” she said. “My landlords have been patient. But no one wants to be awakened by a screaming child at 5 a.m. I lived in fear of being evicted.”

Not anymore. 

The 1,400-square-foot Contemporary has been remodeled with a new kitchen, bathroom, wood floors upstairs, and carpeted bedrooms on the lower level. 

Habitat requires families to contribute sweat equity to their home under construction.

“I painted, broke down cabinets and closets, built the downstairs walls, and did lots of grunt work,” she said. “It’s been quite a learning experience, but I feel fine.”

In addition, Ventura worked in Habitat’s Restore shop on Pulaski Street where gently used furniture and home products are sold at reasonable prices. 

It’s the latest success for Ventura, who grew up with four brothers and sisters, and a single mom who struggled financially. The future did not look bright.

“My mom didn’t finish high school and always worked in hotels where there was not much room for growth,” she recalled.  “I didn’t want that for me.”

After high school she attended Salem State University where she studied criminal justice and graduated in 2013. Today, she works at a social service agency helping needy families. 

“As a social worker, I help homeless families find permanent housing,” she said. 

Donald Preston, the agency’s executive director, said Habitat’s North Shore affiliate has built 39 homes and completed eight major renovations since 1985. Today, there are 50 Habitat homes under construction in Massachusetts. 

The nonprofit was founded in 1976 as a grassroots effort on a community farm in Georgia. The Christian housing organization whose volunteers have included former President Jimmy Carter, has since grown to become a global nonprofit working in every state.  There are 17 Habitat affiliates in Massachusetts, nearly 1,400 nationwide, and in more than 70 countries.

To qualify, the income for a family of four cannot exceed $70,000. To buy a home in Peabody at market rate, that same family would need more than $150,000 in annual income to qualify for a mortgage. 

It’s unlikely anyone knew in the 1970s what would happen to home prices. In Peabody, the median price for a single-family more than doubled over the last two decades to $457,500 in 2019, up from $205,800 in 1999, according to The Warren Group, the Boston-based real estate tracker. 

Greater Boston has become one of the most expensive places in the country to buy a home. It ranks as the fourth most expensive of the 25 largest metropolitan areas after New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, according to the 2019 Greater Boston Housing Report Card. 

Ventura, who has settled into her new home, is still pinching herself to make sure it’s real.

“Having this home means the world to me,” she said. “It gives me peace of mind I’ve never known.”

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