June 8 was a day to remember for the new residents of the Las Rosas townhouse community in Kennett Square. That was when the complex was officially opened and several homeowners received rose bouquets as a symbol of their move to a better life.
The three- and four-bedroom townhouses just off South and Center streets near the car wash, were constructed through the efforts of the Alliance for Better Housing, a non-profit agency based in Toughkenamon that aims to find homes for people with low and moderate incomes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Opportunities Inc. and the Chester County Department of Community Development provided some funding, and financing was done through the People's Bank of Oxford.
The homes were offered for sale at around $200,000 with reduced rate mortgages to people with low and moderate incomes - defined as about 80 percent of the median income of $40,000 in Chester County.
To date, 12 of the 16 homes are spoken for, and, according to Alliance for Better Housing acting director Woodie Pagan, and he said he expected the remaining four to be sold soon.
Speaking at the opening, Kennett Square Mayor Leon Spencer praised the effort and the people who helped make it happen. He likened it to putting together a musical concert. "Together we were able to pull off what a production does. Thank God for all of you. And now families have a place to live," he said.
Gloria Villagomez, the owner of one of the new three-bedroom homes, was on hand to thank her benefactors and receive a bouquet of Alliance for Better Housing representative Guillermo Rivera. Villagomez has six children ages 17, 15, 13, 9, 4 and 5 months. She said through a Spanish translator that she and her husband, who works in the mushroom industry, are "very happy." She added that she and her formerly lived in an apartment in Avondale.
People's Bank of Oxford Senior Vice President Gary R. Davis said his bank has financed many homes around the area and in total has loaned out up to $2.5 million on the total project.
Pagan said the Alliance would continue to find and build houses for lower income people. He said he is working on a project in Toughkenamon and is considering a senior housing project in West Grove.
According to a press release issued at the opening ceremony, the development name, Las Rosas, which means "rose" in Spanish, pays tribute to the land's former use as a commercial rose farm - before Chester County earned its reputation as the mushroom capital of the world. In fact, many of the Las Rosas residents work in the local mushroom farming industry.
The Alliance for Better Housing was developed in 1994 in response to the affordable housing shortage in Chester County. Today the organization is affiliated with Rural Opportunities Inc. and primarily serves Mexican and Puerto Rican immigrants. ROI also serves low-income families in depressed communities throughout New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana and Puerto Rico, the press release said.