Lifelong Orient resident Michael Bredemeyer never imagined he could own a house in his hometown. Even with a steady job working as assistant parks and recreation supervisor at Orient Beach State Park, he believed the high cost of living on Long Island would eventually force him elsewhere in order to purchase a home of his own — and move out from his parents’ home.
But at the age of 26, Mr. Bredemeyer has seen his dream of homeownership come true after being selected to live in a Habitat for Humanity home in Orient, just a few miles from where he grew up.
On Monday Mr. Bredemeyer could barely contain his excitement as he watched construction crews begin demolishing a blighted and empty house on Greenway East, where his Habitat for Humanity home will soon be built. Standing alongside his mother and grandmother, he watched as the walls fell and encroaching trees were removed.
“It is a dream come true,” he said. “I’m just overwhelmed. Not many people who are 26 can have a house.”
The long-vacant house was identified by Suffolk County’s 72H affordable housing program, through which repossessed properties are turned over to local communities for the purposes of affordable housing.
Encouraged by his father, Southold Town trustee John Bredemeyer, and mother, Beverly Bredemeyer, he applied for a chance to own the home when the program was announced in March. Until now, Mr. Bredemeyer had always lived with his parents.
His application was one of five filed that met the eligibility requirements for affordable housing in Southold Town, said town special projects coordinator Phillip Beltz.
After interviewing all hopefuls, Mr. Beltz narrowed the selection to four applicants. The process was then taken over by Habitat for Humanity. Following months of financial and other background checks, the organization’s volunteer family selection committee made the final decision at the end of June.
To qualify, Mr. Bredemeyer had to show had no excessive credit card debt or multiple bills in collection, hadn’t declared bankruptcy in the past five years, and had had a stable income for the last 12 months. He also had to prove that his gross income fell within the guidelines for Habitat’s housing.
Although Habitat for Humanity is typically known for helping struggling families or military veterans, manager of family services Lindsey Ross said Suffolk County presents different housing problems, opening up the program to young single people whose salary is 40 to 60 percent below the area’s median income.
“Suffolk County is unique compared to other parts of the U.S.,” Ms. Ross said. “We don’t generally see families that are homeless or living in a basement or a garage. We see people who are paying excessive amounts of rent or even have steady income and a good job, but at their income level it is not likely they will be able to afford a home on the open market.”
“[Mr. Bredemeyer] has invested in his community,” she continued. “He grew up there. He is a member of the fire department. He was a great candidate for the community because now he can stay there and continue to put down his roots.”
The Orient home is Habitat’s first property in the Town of Southold. Southold Councilman Bob Ghosio called the house a huge benefit for the community because the town has limited options for residents who need affordable houses.
“It is great to be able to have something like this in our town that struggles with affordable housing,” he said. “To take a piece of property that has been an eyesore for so long and repurpose it is fantastic.”
As part of his agreement with Habitat, Mr. Bredemeyer must contribute 300 hours of hands-on build time, or “sweat equity.”
Over the next 10 to 12 months he is expected to work with volunteer crews to help build the new house. Once it is complete, Mr. Bredemeyer will be responsible for paying his own mortgage — which will be calculated based on the final cost of construction, Ms. Ross said. Usually the payments are around 30 percent of the homeowner’s annual income, she said.
As the remains of the demolished house were thrown into a trash bin, Mr. Bredemeyer’s thoughts were already on the future.
“I’m not afraid of the work, I’m already thinking long term,” he said. “Definitely thinking of adding a pool.”