PASADENA, Calif. – A non-profit organization in Pasadena is preserving history while helping locals achieve a major goal. Heritage Housing Partners just finished building a brand new affordable housing complex called "Decker Court."
Pasadena's Queen-Anne style Decker House was constructed in 1892. It was designated a city landmark in 1998. Now, it's home to Aurelia Okafor-Smith and her two sons.
Moving is usually mundane, but when it's into one of the first homes you can call your own, there's a sense of pride that moves in too. It's a feeling Okafor-Smith calls wonderful.
"For the last few days, just waking up I’m like in awe. I’m looking around like oh my gosh, this is mine," said Okafor-Smith.
After a nine month process to buy one of two units in the Decker House, Okafor-Smith and her two sons finally moved in. But this house isn't just any home. The 128-year-old Victorian is one of the oldest houses still standing in Pasadena.
“Not too many people can say they’ve lived in a historical place," said Okafor-Smith.
Developers at Heritage Housing Partners scope out historic places like the Decker House, named after its first owner, Frank Decker back in 1892.
Their mission at Heritage Housing is to buy those historic homes to preserve the history of the town.
Executive Director Charles Loveman purchased the Decker House from the City of Pasadena with a vision to build 14 new and affordable condos around it.
"There’s seven new units and then the two historic units at Decker," explained Loveman.
But before construction could even begin, Heritage Housing had to cut the Decker House in half to bring it here.
"It was down about two or three miles south from here, on Fair Oaks and Orange Grove," Loveman said. "In order to move it up the street, because of the street trees and everything, we had to cut it into two separate pieces and then put it on foundation and then stitch it back together.”
No easy task, but Loveman said it’s his passion - not only to preserve the past and its precious artifacts, but to provide the once in a lifetime opportunity to people here in the present.
He says giving locals the chance to buy a home will instill a sense of pride in their neighborhood, which in turn, revitalizes it.
"When we get to the finish line, we get to give the keys to someone like Aurelia, who would never be able to be a homeowner in Pasadena, except for a program like ours," said Loveman.
They sold the 1,400 square foot unit to Okafor-Smith for $350,000. That’s less than half the current $877,000 median home value in Pasadena. A price you can’t beat, but for the single mother with a teenager, it’s a gift with greater value than even money can determine.
"For [my son] to experience homeownership. It’s one thing for me to say, to try to instill it verbally, but to show him the importance of owning a home is priceless," said Okafor-Smith.
Low income families breaking barriers, according to city staff, who say it’s nearly impossible for them to acquire property in Pasadena.
The homes are also gaining equity, keeping up with the market. Homeowners who live there have the option to sell the unit back to Heritage Housing Partners at the future affordable price. It’s an increase of about five to seven percent per year.