A habitat to call their own — and its got a yard



They’re getting a new house, and one they can afford to keep.

But talking to Mark Miranda and Ada Ortiz, they seem to be more excited about their backyard.

For one, it’s the yard that will allow them to keep their two big dogs, which the 32-year-old Miranda said are quickly outgrowing the couple’s Bay Shore apartment.

Then, there’s the fun and the freedom.

“We’ve never had a barbecue or backyard,” said Ortiz, 25.

“I’ll get to plant anything I want,” Miranda added.

The family, which includes daughters Alayna, 3, and Zayda, 6, is fulfilling its goals of homeownership through the help of Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk, which this week marked World Habitat Day by holding a ceremonial groundbreaking at the Walker Avenue project in Bellport. This is Habitat’s third current project in the hamlet.

“Bellport is an area in great need,” said Steph Busia, the nonprofit’s manager of partnerships and communications. “Of the 180 houses we’ve built since 1988 [when the local chapter was founded], 90 have been in Bellport.”

Although he’s from Bay Shore, Miranda said he’s familiar with the area. Even the block. That’s because his brother acquired an affordable home through Habitat for Humanity on Walker Avenue as well.

“Last year he got his house,” Miranda said.

How might you get a Habitat house? By clicking here to review the qualifications and apply.

In short, Busia said there are three major factors to qualify. Applicants have to show a need. That is, they can’t make too much money. They have to have the ability to pay. And, they must be willing to participate in the program.

Participating in the program means 300 volunteer hours.

And Busia said it works.

“Because our process is so involved, we do have a high success rate” of people staying in their homes, she said. “We’re not setting people up to fail.”

On Friday, a team of volunteers from Bank of America were helping construct the house, as well as others doing their requisite volunteer hours.

Busia said these Habitat-build houses are affordable because of free land from the towns and county, donated money and donated materials, as well as volunteer labor. Also, for those who are wondering, because of the way the loans are structured, new homeowners can’t turn around and sell their Habitat homes for a huge profit.

Miranda and Ortiz said they were at home in Bay Shore then they got a call from Habitat this winter that they had been accepted into the program.

“I cried for joy,” Miranda said.

Asked what she was looking forward to most, little Alayna said she couldn’t wait to get in and “decorate.”

Photo: Mark Miranda and Ada Ortiz with daughter Alayna outside their future home Friday. (Michael White)

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Olabisi Ogunnoiki and Giovanna Scanlon working on the Walker Avenue house Friday. (Michael White)