The 10 members of Abdul Alaya's household will no longer have to squeeze into a two-bedroom apartment every night.
After a 27-month process, the family received keys to their newly remodeled Western Avenue home Saturday. The three-bedroom house was renovated through a program administered by Sacramento Habitat for Humanity.
"I've been waiting for this day," Alaya, 51, told a crowd of 75 community members gathered on his driveway.
At the dedication ceremony Saturday morning, Alaya received numerous gifts and also cut a ceremonial ribbon before taking a tour of his new home.
"This wouldn't be possible without community support," Sacramento Habitat for Humanity CEO Ken Cross said.
Alaya, a former journalist and native of Syria, originally came to the United States in 1998 to study.
Now working as a security guard, he has been sharing an apartment with his wife, his mother, a grandson and six sons, who range in age from 2 to 26.
Four of his sons had been living with him in the United States.
But when the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, he brought over two other sons who had remained with an ex-wife.
"I'm happy today to get the house, but I'm sad at what's going on back home in Syria," Alaya said.
Sacramento City Councilman Allen Warren applauded the housing program for restarting "the engines of our community."
Warren recalled growing up down the street in the Del Paso Heights neighborhood. He said the program was helping to revitalize an area particularly hard hit by foreclosures, crime and unemployment.
Hundreds of volunteers poured countless hours into rebuilding the house from scratch during the seven-month construction period.
Alaya had to put in 500 "sweat" or volunteer hours at other Habitat for Humanity projects to get the house.
The program is designed to get people on their feet and on to better job opportunities, Cross said.
The home will cost $150,000, paid over 30 years with no interest. The Alaya family's home is the 92nd project sponsored by Sacramento Habitat for Humanity in 20 years.
Alaya said the family is grateful to have the house.
"It's four times as large as our old apartment," said his eldest son, Abdulwhhab.