For years, Brittney Allen dreamed of owning her own home, a safe and stable place for her children to grow and play. Recently, as she stood in her brand new Habitat home in the Burnet Commons III: The Park neighborhood, Brittney reflected on how she got here.

“I grew up in low-income housing. We weren’t allowed to go outside and play because it wasn’t safe,” she said. “I wanted better for my children, so I worked two or three jobs at a time to make ends meet. I didn’t think I could ever become a homeowner. Habitat gave me the chance to make my dreams come true.”

This month, Brittney and 11 other hardworking Charlottesville families celebrated purchasing their own homes at two joyous dedication ceremonies. While the weather didn’t cooperate – one ceremony was interrupted by unusually heavy rains and the other saw temperatures reach over 100 degrees – families, friends, volunteers, neighbors and community members came out to celebrate their accomplishments.

Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer and City Council Member Kathy Galvin joined the festivities, welcoming the families to their new neighborhood.

“You have overcome so many hardships, and hearing all of your stories is very inspiring,” said Mayor Signer. “On behalf of the City, I am honored to be a part of your special day.”

The dedication ceremonies also marked a new milestone for Habitat – completing 12 homes at once.

“Our commitment to build at least 20 homes annually has challenged us to work harder,” said Habitat President and CEO Dan Rosensweig. “Our Partner Families, loyal volunteers and hard-working staff have banded together, once again, to accomplish what once seemed impossible. Twelve homes at a time is a record for us.”

These homes, and this blossoming neighborhood, were made possible through a unique private-public partnership, a collaborative effort among Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville, Southern Development Homes and the City of Charlottesville. The new neighborhood transformed a long-time City dumping ground into a pedestrian-oriented, mixed-income community built around a central park. The Park features 18 Habitat and 28 market-rate homes.

As for the families, they are thrilled to be home and starting their lives in their new neighborhood.

“Throughout the Habitat process, we all had dinner together once a month and it built such a sense of community,” Brittney said. “I want to keep this tradition going, not just with the Habitat homeowners, but with the whole neighborhood.”