September 23, 2021  Eagle Tribune

ANDOVER — Moving to Andover Amarilys Zayas and Michelle Tejada are most excited to provide their children with a permanent home that will set them up for good futures, they said.

“We achieved the dream to give our children a better future and a community,” Zayas said.

The two, single mothers are the first to move their families into the Lupine Road duplex built in partnership between the Essex County Habitat for Humanity and Andover Community Trust. The two homes — and another duplex which will be finished by the end of the year — will be permanently affordable for people making less than 60% of the average median income. Andover Community Trust is building another duplex on the same parcel of land for a total of six units.

Zayas and Tejada each bought their homes for $185,000 and 350 hours of sweat equity working on the property alongside volunteers. The duplexes are much more affordable options for home ownership in the town where the typical home costs $790,754, according to Zillow.

“I feel very good to live in Andover, especially with the school system — I love it because they encourage the kids to progress more,” Tejada said.

The first thing Zayas is doing is signing her 6-year-old twin boys up for soccer. It was harder to find them a team in Lawrence that worked for their schedules, she said. Tejada’s teenage sons are already playing football and her 7-year-old daughter was at the YMCA Wednesday afternoon.

Both women thanked the many volunteers who came out to celebrate them finally moving in Wednesday afternoon. Construction started in 2019, and they were set to move in this spring. However, the pandemic delayed construction. The other homes that are part of the project are set to be complete by the end of the year, said Richard Sumberg, chairman of the board of directors for the Habitat chapter.

“The best thing about these homes is that they are permanently affordable because of deed restrictions,” Sumberg said. “People will be living in and buying these homes for decades and we need a lot more of them (affordable homes) than we could ever build, but we will try like hell.”

Currently the organization has 11 homes under construction with a project to add 10 more in the spring, Sumberg said. The former Merrimack Valley Habitat for Humanity and North Shore Habitat for Humanity merged last year to become the Essex County Habitat for Humanity, helping pool resources to help more people, said Executive Director Meegan O’Neil.

“We are really a partnership organization that brings together the communities we help to get resources, build and create the local solution to the affordable housing issue,” O’Neil said.

In Andover, community partnerships laid the foundation for these homes. The land was donated by South Church, which was gifted the one-acre parcel in the 1940s.

It wasn’t until about five years ago the congregants decided to use it for affordable housing, said Rev. Dana Walsh.

“We hoped this plot of land could be more than grass and trees,” she said. “Holding onto this seed of hope we were able to make this crazy thing happen. We never had foreseen six families being able to live here.”

She added that providing safe homes and creating affordable home ownership opportunities helps further the church’s mission to create a more equitable and just society.

Susan Stott, the founder of Andover Community Trust, also welcomed the development and partnership. It especially honored her late friend Margot Bixby, who helped found the Merrimack Valley Habitat for Humanity.

“When I went to Margot to ask about how she started it to give me advice for starting the trust, she said, ‘I’ve always wanted to have a habitat home in Andover,’” Stott said. “It’s her dream come true — a dream of over 30 years in the making.”

Now Zayas’ and Tejada’s families will each get to live out their dreams with Andover as their home bases.

Zayas’ children were especially excited, running around their new yard. They even have stepped up to use their savings to help mom buy a microwave for their new home, she said.


Carl Russo/Staff photo Eagle Tribune