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room to grow

Larona Avenue is surprisingly peaceful, given its close proximity to the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens. Foliage mutes the traffic noise, and you can hear faint calls from zoo animals from the front porch of Robin’s Habitat house. The sunset view is gorgeous.

There are four Habitat homes in a row on Larona, all completed in 2014, adding to many that Habitat for Humanity of Greater Cincinnati has built in Cincinnati’s Avondale neighborhood over 30 years. But Robin’s house is different from the three new builds next to it. Her house is a 98-year-old Habitat rehab that was “completely gutted” to revamp it into a brand new home that Robin purchased for her family. All four houses were landscaped by the Cincinnati Zoo, a great community partner who contributed to the houses and families in multiple ways.

Robin is employed by LabCorp in a doctor’s office, having completed training as a phlebotomist 10 years ago. She and her three children had been living in a three-bedroom rental in Northside. Robin liked it and would have stayed, but the landlord had a foreclosure. “We were forced to move out,” she remembers. They had to put a lot of their possessions in storage and double up in a two-bedroom apartment, “but we made it a home.”

Robin heard about Habitat years ago, but was prompted to apply for this house by a co-worker who knew her well and said, “You can do this.” Like many future Habitat homeowners, she had discovered that “you never get ahead on Section 8.” Housing subsidies are reduced and the family’s share increases every time their income rises, so there’s very little way to get ahead or save.

So Robin applied, was accepted, and started working on Habitat homebuyer classes and her sweat equity. The classes helped lay a foundation for successful homeownership. “You learn to put your needs before your wants.” She’s even stayed connected to some folks in her class.

Robin earned her sweat equity on a variety of projects. She worked at the Bond Hill ReStore, stocking and cleaning, and helped out on the three new homes being built next to her home. Like most Habitat families, Robin had lots of help – her kids, cousins, aunt, and pastor from New Horizons Covenant Fellowship Church. She was also helped by her friend Baghwana, who is now a Habitat homeowner and called Robin “an inspiration.”

Because it was a rehab, Robin worked less on her own future home, but “I loved meeting so many different kinds of people.” She’s still in touch with Bob Edgecomb, retired Habitat site superintendent, who oversaw the complex work on her house.