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Why These First-Time Homeowners Are Extra Grateful in Birmingham This Week

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Rauslyn Adams, third from left; Phylisha Thomas, fourth from left, become first-time homeowners in Birmingham's Wahouma community as Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, fifth from left, along with other area leaders join in on the celebration. (Sym Posey, The Birmingham Times)

By Sym Posey

The Birmingham Times

Two Birmingham residents have reason to be extra grateful during Thanksgiving week.

On Monday, Phylisha Thomas and Rauslyn Adams, became first-time homeowners as the City of Birmingham, Birmingham Land Bank and Habitat for Humanity welcomed families to six new affordable homes in the Wahouma neighborhood near East Lake.

Those were the first of 11 new Habitat homes being built in the neighborhood.

“I feel grateful and thankful to have a home for my babies to spend Thanksgiving in,” said Thomas.  “I’ve wanted to do this for a long time. This is my first home… I wanted to make sure that my son has his own space …”

Adams said she was equally “ecstatic. Anybody that knows me knows that this is one of my main goals,” said the mother of Zamir, 7, and Zhuri,4. “To be a homeowner feels great and my children absolutely love it. I plan to … add to a few things.”

Corey Stallworth, Senior Deputy Director of Department of Community Development for the City of Birmingham, said “an infill housing strategy” made the homes possible.

“We looked at abandoned lots and lots with ruined houses to see how we can redevelop those properties” he said. “Working with the Land Bank, we identified [lots] that were vacant and worked together to demolish them and reimagine [them] with new single-family homes that would be sold to low- or moderate-income families within Birmingham.”

The city spent $1.2 million to help remove blight and acquire lots and help fund materials for the building of homes in the neighborhood, in partnership with the Land Bank and Habitat, whose volunteers help build the homes.

The homes were available for purchase for under $160,000 through Habitat’s housing program. “This is a housing strategy to make sure that we have affordable housing options for families,” said Stallworth.

Watching a new homeowner get the key to their home is one of the highlights of his job, said Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin. “There is nothing more pleasing than to see a homeowner’s child, children or grandchildren be able to play in their front yard and feel safe and be safe,” the mayor said. “That’s what this is about when I talk about neighborhood revitalization.”

Woodfin also noted that a day before the ribbon-cutting in Wahouma  former First Lady Rosalynn Carter died on Sunday, Nov. 19, Alongside her husband, former President Jimmy Carter, the former First Lady, was a longtime Habitat activist and volunteer.

“I think it’s fitting that on the day after First Lady Carter passed away, we acknowledge her during a ribbon-cutting of Habitat homes,” Woodfin said.

After Carter’s presidency, the couple famously hammered away as volunteers for Habitat for Humanity, including in Alabama, working on homes in Fairfield and Wylam.