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Home ownership is a ‘life changer’ for family who helped build their own house

She’s a homeowner now, which was cause for joy from Lizbette Saenz-Rodriguez (center), who hugged her mother, Maria Cardona, on Sunday before a house blessing ceremony in the 4700 block of Northeast 46th Street in Kansas City, North. The Rodriguez family celebrated the completion of their new home, built by the family and volunteers through the Fuller Center for Housing of Greater Kansas City. It was purchased with a zero interest, 30-year mortgage. The family put hundreds of sweat equity hours into helping to build their new home.
She’s a homeowner now, which was cause for joy from Lizbette Saenz-Rodriguez (center), who hugged her mother, Maria Cardona, on Sunday before a house blessing ceremony in the 4700 block of Northeast 46th Street in Kansas City, North. The Rodriguez family celebrated the completion of their new home, built by the family and volunteers through the Fuller Center for Housing of Greater Kansas City. It was purchased with a zero interest, 30-year mortgage. The family put hundreds of sweat equity hours into helping to build their new home. The Kansas City Star

On a nearly cloudless and unseasonably warm Sunday, the Rodriguez family’s dream of home ownership became a reality.

Since the summer of 2013, the family of six, along with a chorus of relatives and volunteers, have worked to convert a patch of vacant land in the 4700 block of Northeast 46th Street in Kansas City, North, into their new four-bedroom home.

“It’s a life changer,” Lizbette Saenz-Rodriguez said during the house blessing ceremony on Sunday. They’ll move into the house in the coming weeks.

The family’s new 1,800-square-foot home was provided by the Fuller Center for Housing of Greater Kansas City, a Christian-based nonprofit group that renovates, repairs and builds affordable homes for families and people with limited financial resources.

The group was created by Millard Fuller, the late founder of Habitat for Humanity International, and was launched in Kansas City in October 2009.

To qualify, families have to meet specific income guidelines, be willing to participate in helping construct the home and take part in home ownership education sessions that include budgeting, finance, home maintenance and debt reduction. Afterward, families are able to purchase the home with a zero-interest, 30-year mortgage.

Saenz-Rodriguez said being able to connect with the Fuller Center was a real blessing.

“We had been rejected by all of the big names,” she said, referring to mortgage companies. “I had never thought I would be the one they picked. I was just so used to people telling me no.”

The Fuller Center doesn’t make a profit off the sale of the home, and the purchase price is based on the cost of construction, said Graham Houston, president.

The Rodriguez family had lived in three different places since being selected for the program. To save money, the family eventually moved in with Saenz-Rodriguez’s mother, Houston said.

“They had a little bit of instability of where they had lived,” he said. “Home ownership creates a stable home environment, and it is a much better environment to raise children in.”

With the zero-interest mortgage, the cost of buying the home is going to be far less than what the couple previously paid in rent, Houston said.

The Rodriguezes’ white, two-story home features an eat-in kitchen, a one-vehicle garage and bedrooms on both floors. The children jockeyed for where their bedrooms were to be located months ago when the foundation was poured and the support beams were put in place, Saenz-Rodriguez said.

But on Sunday, the couple’s 13-year-old daughter, Jasmin, had began to envision design plans for her bedroom.

“I am still imagining how I am going to have my room,” Jasmin said after the blessing ceremony. “I know what is going over the walls; they gave me some star lights so they will go around my room.”

Houston said participants are required to donate 250 hours of sweat equity. However, the Rodriguez family exceeded that requirement by completing nearly 2,000 hours of sweat equity.

“It shows the great dedication of this family,” he said.

To reach Glenn E. Rice, call 816-234-4341 or send email to grice@kcstar.com.

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