Twenty-one happy families will gather with friends and family around newly finished kitchens and living rooms this holiday season to honor the hard work and dedication they have invested into the construction of their new homes, their new community and their promising new futures. On November 23rd, 21 proud families join more than 800 families who have already built their own homes with the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition (CVHC) in the City of Coachella, and join a community of more than 1,600 families who have built their homes with CVHC throughout Riverside and Imperial counties.
“What better gift can parents give their children than their very own bedroom in which to study, a warm dining room to share meals together, and a home built by their two hands through the Mutual Self Help program,” said CVHC’s Executive Director John Mealey. “The 21 hardworking new homeowners join a network of dedicated families who have invested nights and weekends, above and beyond their full-time jobs, to build a home and a community for themselves and their families.”
In the program 10-15 families work together for up to twelve months to build their home and that of their neighbors. No families move in until all the families move in. The program funding is secured by the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition through the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Rural Development, which provides each family with a low-interest mortgage of 1 percent to market rate depending on family size and financial need. Families also qualify for mortgage subsidies of approximately $13,000 from the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) CalHome Program and the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco Affordable Housing Program (AHP). The average sales price of the homes is $153,000. The average mortgages are $140,000. The act of building the homes or “sweat equity” becomes each family’s down payment.
Land acquisition and development of Bellissima was funded through loans with Rabobank, HCD, and the Housing Assistance Council’s Rural Housing Loan Fund program and the Self Help Opportunities Program; construction and permanent financing, and technical assistance were provided by USDA-RD’s Section 502 and 523 programs, AHP and HCD.
“One of the greatest joys of the work we do is seeing the happy faces on the families as they finally put down their hammers and move into their new homes – and years later learning through their stories about the positive impacts the Self Help Program has had on the lives of their children,” said Mealey. “We are honored to be a part of this effort to help families achieve the dream of homeownership.”
U.S. Army Veteran Jorge Ramirez, a Bellissima home-builder, attributes the success of his family to the program. His parents built a home under the Mutual Self Help program when he was young, and after being medically discharged from the Army, he found the program was a perfect way to help him and his wife Christina, provide a safe, affordable home for their two daughters as well.
All Self Help Program participants are either low or very low income. According to USDA, a Riverside County family of four earning less than $53,600 a year is low income and a family of four earning less than $33,500 a year is very low income. Families also meet strict credit and financial history requirements. All of CVHC’s Self-Help program participants meet with CVHC’s loan packagers to prepare themselves for homeownership, and take preconstruction classes to learn how to build their home and maintain it post construction.
These 21 families, who starting working on their homes alongside their neighbors in January, join more than 50,000 families who have built their homes under the program across the country.
“In the nearly 30 years that we have operated the US Department of Agriculture’s Mutual Self Help Program, CVHC has helped thousands of people build bedrooms where their children can do homework, kitchens where the family can celebrate birthdays and holidays, and front porches where neighbors can build a community,” Mealey said. “The Mutual Self Help Program is a success across the country because hard-working individuals are willing to invest their blood, sweat and hard effort into building a stable home and community for themselves and their neighbors. That is the essence of selflessness and the beauty of such a life-changing program that has impacted so many across the country.”
Local cities and communities with Self Help families now in construction include: Coachella, Desert Hot Springs, and the unincorporated Riverside County community of North Shore, as well as the City of Imperial in Imperial County; cities and communities where CVHC is recruiting families include: Desert Hot Springs, North Shore, Thermal, and the City of Imperial.
Located in Indio, California, about one hundred miles east of Los Angeles, the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition (CVHC) is an award-winning non-profit housing development corporation dedicated to helping low and very-low income families improve their living conditions through advocacy, research, construction, and operation of housing and community development projects. In its 34th year, CVHC is committed to providing affordable housing and community development programs to hundreds of underserved families. To date, CVHC has built more than 4,100 homes and apartments for low-income households in Riverside and Imperial counties. In addition, CVHC has developed childcare centers, after-school programs, and medical clinics. It operates various services for its tenants and others including mariachi classes, English as a Second Language and computer classes, a ballet folklorico program, and tennis and recreational programs. For more information visit www.cvhc.org