From left: Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray, housing lettery winner Yolanda Ratcliff and her two children,
From left: Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray, housing lettery winner Yolanda Ratcliff and her two children, Janae and Arthur.

Some started crying. Others gasped. And one boy crossed his fingers before his family joined five that won a Town of Hempstead affordable housing lottery for rebuilt low-cost Inwood homes.

After “Uncle Sam” picked the winning families whose names were written on ping pong balls in a lottery tumbler during the Independence Day-themed event at the Rock Hall Museum in Lawrence, the winners then picked their address from five apple pies on Thursday afternoon.

“This is one of the happiest days of my life, besides having my children,” said Yolanda Ratcliff, a mother of two from Brooklyn who grew teary as she called her family to share the good news. “I am so overwhelmed with joy.”

The houses will feature three bedrooms, 1.5 baths, a living room, kitchen, dining room, utility room, laundry room and one car garage. The original cost of these homes typically reach $300,000 have been cut almost in half to $172,000.

“There has been 100 percent success rate since the beginning of the program about 20 years ago,” said Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray. “These houses are replacing blighted properties and there has not been one foreclosure since the inception.”

The town built more than 200 affordable homes in communities such as Roosevelt, Lakeview, Baldwin and Inwood over the past two decades.

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The five Inwood homes are on Walcott Avenue, Janet Avenue and Monroe Street. First priority in the lottery went to Inwood residents followed by Town of Hempstead residents, Nassau County residents then all other applicants.

The other four winners included Patricia Smith, Maria Allen, Robert and Kimberly McHale and Sharif Fordham and Michelle Bostic. The Ratcliff family was the last to win.

With only one house left, 13-year-old Arthur Thomas crossed his fingers along with his mother, Yolanda Ratcliff, and 18-year-old sister, Janae Thomas, in anticipation. Finally, their name was called and they became the homeowners of 10 Walcott Ave.

“I got nervous because they were down to the last one and they hadn’t called my name yet,” said Ratcliff. “You don’t understand, I’ve wanted a home since I’m a little girl.”

Arthur Thomas has big plans for his new room, but is also excited about no longer having to go to the Laundromat.

“I can finally have my own room,” said Arthur Thomas, who plans to paint it blue and white while his sister, plans to make her room pink.

Construction on the homes begins in August and is expected to be finished between December and March. Residents cannot sell their homes for 10 years. Each family was awarded a new American flag to be placed in front of their new homes.


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Timothy Bolger is the Managing Editor for the Long Island Press who’s been working to uncover unreported stories since shortly after it launched in 2003. When he’s not editing, getting hassled by The Man or fielding cold calls to the newsroom, he covers crime, general interest and political news in addition to reporting longer, sometimes investigative features. He won’t be happy until everyone is as pissed off as he is about how screwed up Lawn Guyland is.