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Miami Gardens Security guard wins lottery

Miami Gardens Security guard wins lottery to buy house 

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This Christmas, Evelyn Bell is getting a home.

The Miami Gardens resident was awarded the city’s low-cost, energy efficient home Wednesday in a short, tense ceremony at City Hall. She’l pay $200,000 for the three-bedroom two-bathroom house, a price far below the county average.

It was tense for the 13 residents who applied and were awaiting their fate. Tense for the city staff who planned this contest and awaited the sale. Chinna Abel, Miss Miami Gardens, was slated to pick a name out of a bowl, declaring one of the lottery contestants the city’s newest first-time homeowner.

Bell, dressed in a sweat suit and clutching her purse, sat at the edge of her seat. Her legs shook as politicians and city staff talked about the history of this housing lottery, how wonderful homeownership was and just how glad they were to help someone fulfill a dream.

Oscar Braynon II, city council member and one of the city development department’s biggest advocates, said he hoped the newly renovated home would inspire other residents to spruce up their property as well.

Bell was rummaging through her purse when Abel called her name. She looked up, then froze for two seconds.

”That’s me?” she said. “That’s me.”

Her eyes reddened as tears welled.

To the crowd’s applause, Bell walked to the front of the room for a flurry of pictures. Then, she collapsed into a seat.

”Do you have any words for us?” Community Development Director Daniel Rosemond said to her.

Bell shook her head, ”No.” She was too overwhelmed.

For at least a decade, the 39-year-old security guard has been trying to qualify for a mortgage.

”I kept on being denied,” Bell said a day after she won the lottery. “Why? I cannot tell you because I do not know.”

Bell moved to a Miami Gardens apartment in 2005, two years after the city’s incorporation, with her daughter, her niece and her nephew. She started taking homeownership classes at Miami-Dade’s Community Action Agency, learning budgeting and credit skills.

During one lesson, Bell heard that Miami Gardens was holding a competition to win a house at below market value. Through its new community development department, the city purchased a three-bedroom two-bathroom home from the federal department of Housing and Urban Development.

The city was planning on rehabbing the home, 1080 NW 185th Ter., once decrepit and unkempt with a peachy exterior. Staff used grant money to rehabilitate the home and sell it for no profit at a cost of $200,000.

Rosemond estimated the price was at least $70,000 below market value.

Bell said she drove around the Norwood neighborhood as the home was being refurbished. She saw the windows replaced, the lawn plowed for resodding and the exterior repainted olive green. The younger ones didn’t like the house much but Bell thinks they’ll come around to it.

”I wouldn’t say homeownership is important,” Bell said, “but it was just something I wanted to do for myself. I wanted to know that if something happened the kids would always have a roof over their heads. They wouldn’t have to worry about someone moving them away.”

Bell will have 45 days to close on the house. If she cannot make the payments, Rosemond said, the city will pass the opportunity to another applicant. Bell is not allowed to sell the house for at least 10 years.

For now, though, Bell is concentrating on moving in.

”This is the best Christmas gift I have ever received,” Bell said. “I cannot think of anything that can compare.”

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