Lisa Sivertsen and her husband, Ron, will be able to sleep together in the same bed again after they move into new affordable housing in Mendenhall Valley.
The Sivertsens and their two sons are one of 25 families that will be moving into phase II of Glacier Village Subdivision on August 9. Phase II consists of 19 single-family houses and six houses on zero lots on Granite Drive off Valley Boulevard.
The houses were built by the Tlingit-Haida Regional Housing Authority. They are available to Natives and non-Natives.
"I can't even explain it," Lisa Sivertsen said. "It's just wonderful. It's a feeling I can't even express it's that exciting."
For the last four months, the Sivertsens have been living in a small two-bedroom apartment on Haloff Way in the Valley. They gave the bigger bedroom to their sons, R.J. and Justin, and have been sleeping on a couch and loveseat, Lisa Sivertsen said.
On Friday, housing officials kicked off an open house which featured speeches, a barbecue and a children's carnival.
"There is just something special about being with happy people - people whose dreams are coming true, becoming reality," said Native elder Cyril George, who blessed the homes and food.
Although the new residents have not been assigned to their houses yet, they did not seem to mind which one they get. The new houses are a major improvement for the families, who have been either homeless or living in substandard housing.
Lynn and Troop Blake have been living in a 12-by-58-foot trailer in Lemon Creek. The trailer floor has been deteriorating and their refrigerator broke down two weeks ago and still is not working. They converted their porch into a bedroom for their 13-year-old son, Coby.
"It's a miracle," Troop Blake said. "It's something I could give my family. Without this opportunity, there is no way."
Angel and Albert Thompson are anxious to build a fence around their house so their four children can play. Albert, who delivers parts for Evergreen Motors and Angel, a child-care provider, said they had been trying for seven years to get a house but they were too expensive. Angel is expecting their fifth child on February 2, Groundhog Day.
"This was a blessing," Albert said of their new house.
Owning a home for the first time is exciting for most, but Lynn Blake admitted she was scared about being able to make the payments because their lone income is social security and disability. When their two children move out, social security payments will be reduced, she said.
Residents must rent the homes for 15 years and afterward can purchase them at the current interest rates, said Blake Kazama, executive director of the housing authority. Rents range from $750 to $1,300 per month, depending on income and the size of the house. The houses, built by the housing authority, are valued on average at $220,000.
The housing authority received $5.9 million in funds from sources including the Internal Revenue Service's Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program, Alaska Housing Finance Corp. and Wells Fargo Bank. Low-income tax credits provide tax break incentives for investors, such as Wells Fargo, to put their money into the project.
The first phase of the subdivision was 25 single-family homes completed in June of 2003. Phase III will consist of 16 nearby rent-to-own condominiums that would be completed by July 2005. The housing authority received 300 applications for phase II, Kazama said, so it is looking to build more houses. It is negotiating to build 70 more houses in the Valley and 100 more houses and condominiums on Glacier Highway, between the former Kmart building and Fred Meyer.
"Having this public housing available is a life-changing experience," said Robert Cesar, a tax credit specialist at the housing authority. "It helps people get off their feet and have a new and better life."
Tara Sidor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.