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Owning a Home Changes Lives

Ms Jennifer Ebanks stands amidst her garden and shows one of the pumpkins that she has picked.

When the Sister Islands Affordable Housing Development Corporation (SIAHDC) got its start back in January 2008, Deputy Premier and Minister of District Administration, Works, Land and Agriculture Honourable Juliana O'Connor-Connolly knew that it was going to change lives.

"Whether you buy a condo, a town home, a small starter or the home of your dreams, owning a house which families turn into a home is a goal that most humans share," Honourable Juliana O'Connor-Connolly said.

And it was people such as Ms Janilee Douglas who kept pushing the idea along. "We knew there were people in the community who wanted, needed a home but required assistance to attain that goal," Hon. O'Connor-Connolly said.

The Sister Islands Affordable Housing Development Corporation was therefore created to promote home ownership on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman by providing affordable options.

While Ms Douglas was not amongst the first set of people to move in, it was her determination and tenacity that propelled Minster O'Conner-Connolly along.

Ms Janilee Douglas knew only too well about that wanting a place to call her own. Through the assistance of SIAHDC, she moved into her own two bedroom home on 11 April 2010.

"My prayer was answered," Ms Douglas declared.

"I was waiting for 10 years. I am grateful to God and the people he works through -Honourable Juliana O'Connor-Connolly, and the people who built the homes," she said.

Ms Douglas explained that having four kids and working for CI$3 per hour made it impossible for her to secure enough funds to make the initial down payment that banks require. In fact, her low salary was one of the reasons that prevented her from being able to qualify in the first set of homes. But a couple years later, fate smiled kindly on Ms Douglas as she was able to get a better paying job.

"Having to share a home with other people and with four kids, I knew I needed a place of my own. When you have to live with other people it is not easy," this fiercely independent Bracker said.

"Now I feel so independent and free. I feel safe now in the knowledge that as long as I am paying the mortgage, I don't have anything to worry about," Ms Douglas said.

Ms Jennifer Ebanks, who owns a three-bedroom home in the West End development, was one of the first set of residents to move into the SIAHDC homes.

"It was 24 December 2008 and it was the best Christmas present I have, and will ever receive," Ms Ebanks said.

"I love my home and the neighbourhood. There is no better feeling than opening your own door with your own key. Moving into this home was a gift from God. I wouldn't want to change this for anything in the world. We help each other with our yards. We are a community," she added.

Ms Ebanks and her partner Wesley do a little backyard farming and say they share the crops with neighbours.

"I can remember when the second set of homes was built and our neighbours moved in and we welcomed them. If someone cooks, we share. We live well together. This is next door to heaven," Ms Ebanks said.

The Sister Islands Affordable Housing Development Corporation (SIAHDC) is encouraging potential homeowners to begin the application process. The screening process considers areas like income, property ownership and family situation.

The current plans are for (one) 2-bedroom and (three) 3-bedroom homes to be constructed at the Watering Place location, and (two) 2-bedroom and (six) 3-bedroom homes at West End. The plans are similar to the existing homes, which are 855 sq ft for a 2-bedroom home and 1,073 sq ft for the three-bedroom unit.

For more information on how to apply for a home in Sister Islands Affordable Housing Development Corporation subdivision, please call 948-8177 or e-mail or visit the SIAHDC Office Unit 8 Avistar Building.