LAWRENCE — Two Lawrence families who scrimped and saved to buy their first homes said they never imagined things would fall into place so quickly.
For Victor Jaime and his family, and Ana Urena and her family, the dream of moving from apartments into homes they can call their own was years away.
Then they hit the lottery.
Not the cash kind like the Megabucks, but a homeownership lottery in which they and three other working families won the right to purchase brand new homes on previously vacant, neglected North Common lots that had been littered with garbage and discarded vehicles for many years.
Three of the single-family, energy-efficient homes are on Union Street, and two are on nearby Milford Street.
The Union-Milford Affordable Homes project was created as part of Lawrence CommunityWorks’ Project Reviviendo efforts focused in the North Common neighborhood.
Jaime, 41, said he entered the lottery last fall and was hopeful that he and his wife, Ines Armando, and their children Kevin Jaime, 2, Steven Jaime, 6, and Victor Jaime Jr., 15, would see their dream of homeownership come true.
The Dominican native said his wife, who works as a health care assistant, got the call on a Saturday in February then called him at his place of employment, a lumberyard in Tewksbury.
“She was crying when she called,” Jaime said. “I never imagined we’d have our own home so soon as we thought it would be at least five and probably 10 years away.”
Urena, 42, a Dominican native who works as a machine operator at New Balance Shoe, said she and her husband, Ramon Pena, a warehouse worker, have been saving to buy a home but thought it was years away.
She said their children, Anibal Pena, 18, and Nomar Pena, 14, can’t wait to move out of their Howard Street apartment.
“Buying your own home is the future everybody dreams of,” Urena said. “It’s what I dreamed of for my family.”
Officials said the five families are in the process of closing on their homes and can expect to move in soon.
Neighborhood residents, Mayor Daniel Rivera, Lawrence CommunityWorks staff, board members, volunteers, funding agencies and city and state officials gathered at noon at the CommunityWorks offices at 168 Newbury St. then walked to three newly-constructed homes at 128 to 132 Union St. for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“Having a stable home is a platform for so many things a family wants to accomplish,” said Jessica Andors, executive director of Lawrence CommunityWorks.
Officials said five qualified households went through a rigorous application and eligibility process to enter the homeownership lottery.
Of the roughly 200 people who attended information sessions last fall, 46 submitted completed applications, Andors said. Of those, 15 qualified for the public lottery, which was held in February. Five applicants were picked in order, including the Jaime and Urena families.
Four of the homes were available for sale to first-time homebuyers earning at or below 80 percent of the area median income (AMI), and one home was available for homebuyers earning at or below 60 percent AMI. The units also have 20-year deed restrictions, meaning, if the homeowners decide to sell within the next 20 years, they must sell to qualifying, low-income families.
Rivera told the crowd that of all the problems facing society, “you may never die of not having enough food, but you might die because you had to stay outside and you might end up having some psychological damage from not knowing where you’re going to be, or where your kids will be living,” he said. “That’s not how this is supposed to work out. It should not be a place where four or five families are living together in an apartment.”
Andors said an investment of $2 million allowed the cleanup of contaminants such as lead and asbestos that remained from former homes on the sites and the construction of new homes.
The $860,000 total sale price for the five homes will go towards project costs, she said.
The five homes are expected to generate new tax revenues of approximately $12,000 annually to the city of Lawrence, officials said.
Partners in this project included the city of Lawrence, Mass Department of Housing and Community Development, MassHousing, Peoples United Bank, Mass Housing Investment Corporation, Charles Bank Homes, MassDevelopment, NeighborWorks America, Boehm Architecture, Levis Companies, GroundWork Lawrence and the LCW team.