Family chosen to move into Cotatiís Habitat for Humanity
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By Dave Williams  October 11, 2013 12:00 am

The Habitat for Humanity of Sonoma County on Saturday morning broke ground in Cotati on a parcel of land which will be developed into five new affordable homes.

The groundbreaking ceremony on Woodland Hills Court was attended by elected officials, including Cotati Mayor Mark Landman, Cotati City Council members John Dell’Osso, Susan Harvey and Wendy Skillman, former Santa Rosa Mayor Jane Bender, current Sonoma County District 2 Supervisor David Rabbitt, as well as others dedicated to providing affordable housing to those in need. But perhaps the most important attendees were those who will inhabit one of the new homes – Michel and Ferne Turner, who were accompanied by their 10-year-old son Asyia.

The Turners, who currently reside in Santa Rosa, began the process of applying for a home through Habitat for Humanity two years ago. After a series of interviews with various Habitat for Humanity officials, they were chosen to take part in the program and are expected to move into their new digs sometime in the spring of 2014.

Habitat for Humanity is an international organization founded in 1976 that has built more than 600,000 homes for those in need. 

“More than just the new homes, there’ll be five families moving into Cotati,” Landman said. “These are people who’ll be our neighbors, who hopefully will work here, who we’ll see in line at the coffee shop or grocery store…they’ll be sending their children to our schools.”

The home building for Habitat homes is done by volunteers and the money for materials and supplies comes from community donations. Also, the homeowners’ monthly mortgages fund future Habitat homes.

One thing people should know about Habitat for Humanity is those who benefit from the program are not given free homes. Those who purchase homes through Habitat for Humanity do so with zero to low interest rates.

In addition to making their monthly mortgage payments, the Turners must put in 500 sweat equity hours. Sweat equity hours consists of them helping to build their own home and the homes of others.

“It’s part of what we call the self-help model…it’s the Habitat method, said Tyler Turkle, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of Sonoma County.

 “We’re very excited because our children will have somewhere safe to play,” said Ferne, who with Michel also have a 2-year-old son. “We won’t have to worry about them going outside. Where we currently live it’s not kid friendly because we live on the corner of a very busy street.”

Michel chimed in how being a home owner will bring a sense of stability and permanence for him and his family. The Turners will not have to worry about whether or not a landlord will sell the place they live, forcing them to move.

“We won’t have to worry about not knowing where we’re going to live the next month, which is something we’ve been through a couple of times,” said Michel, who is a native of Ohio but moved out to California as a child with his mother. Ferne is a Santa Rosa native. “It’s all about stability and giving that to our kids. In fact, we’ll be the first in our families to actually own a home.”

The Turners say thus far, they’ve helped build interiors of houses, have done landscaping or whatever they were needed to do. Even when they’re in their new home and have finished with all their sweat equity hours, they still plan on contributing to Habitat for Humanity.

“When you’re selected you become part of the family…you’re with them for life, and you want to keep participating.” Ferne said.

Said Michel, “It’s like paying it forward.  People have helped us, so we owe it to the next family to help them get further along in life.”

Rabbitt addressed the housing problem in Sonoma County during the ceremony. 

“There are a lot of people right around us in our community who are living month-to-month, whose housing needs are on the edge, so it’s really important for our county and all our jurisdictions to do what we can,” Rabbitt said.

Rabbitt mentioned a statistic revealing how the number of homeless in Sonoma County has swelled to 4,200 people. He put it in even more stark terms.

“And 11 percent of those homeless people are families with children,” Rabbitt said. “That’s an incredible about that’s out on the street. And 26 percent of the homeless counted are youth 24 years or younger out. Nine percent are veterans in Sonoma County. The downturn of real estate market has reduced the median price of a home, which is a good thing, but it really hasn’t helped lower-income people to buy as lending rolls have been tightened and incomes reduced by layoffs and pay reductions. The cost of rental housing is escalating. It’s imperative we continue that fight going forward.”



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