Cassandra Roest recently stood in a living room filled with stacks of boxes that were nearly as tall as she is and watched her twin sons play in the dining area of their new home.
The Fort Dodge family was taking a break from moving into a townhome at 929 Fourth Ave. N. that is truly their home rather than a rented space.
Roest joined the ranks of American homeowners for the first time when she closed the deal for that unit last week.
CASSANDRA?ROEST?WORKS?ON?PUTTING?AWAY a few kitchen items Thursday shortly after taking possession of her new home at 929 Fourth Ave. N. in Fort Dodge. Her twin sons Andre and Andrik, 3, spend some time at the kitchen table.
But in addition to being a first time homeowner, she's also a kind of pioneer in her neighborhood. She's the first person to buy one of the units in the duplexes built in the Lincoln neighborhood with the help of a federal grant.
In 2008, the city received a $1.3 million neighborhood stabilization grant to spruce up the area named after the Lincoln school which once stood where the Phillips Middle School ballfields are now along North 10th Street. That money was spent to build duplexes at 927-929 Fourth Ave. N. and 322-324 North 10th Street, a house at 915 Fourth Ave. N. and a house at 324 N. Ninth St., according to Vickie Reeck, the city's community development manager. She said the rest of the money was spent on demolishing rundown buildings in the neighborhood.
The duplexes were designed by Allers Associates Architects of Fort Dodge. The Fort Dodge Housing Agency was the general contractor for their construction, which was completed last year.
Under the terms of the federal grant, three of the four units in the duplexes can only be sold to people whose income is 50 percent or less of the area's median income. One of the duplex units on North 10th Street can be sold to a buyer whose income is no more than 120 percent of the area median income.
Roest, a shift manager at a local McDonald's restaurant, was living in a Fort Dodge apartment when she spotted an ad for the duplexes in January.
''I just saw it as kind of an opportunity to own my own home,'' she said.
She said she looked at all four units in the duplexes and picked the one at 929 Fourth Ave. N. because it has a loft.
''This one kind of caught my eye,'' she said.
The process of looking at the homes, getting a mortgage and finalizing the deal took about six months. Roest said Reeck was very helpful throughout the process.
Roest said she's ''excited and proud of myself.'' She said her 3-year-old sons, Andre and Andrik, are also excited.
She said she hopes other potential homebuyers look at her experience and say ''She did it and I can too.''
She added that she's optimistic about the future of the Lincoln neighborhood.
''With a little work, it will clean up and have a good family atmosphere,'' she said.