Jose Andrade, 18, immediately noticed the differences between his family’s previous home and their new apartment at the Villa Hermosa Apartments.
Andrade, a senior at Indio High School, had lived at the rundown Fred Young Labor Camp (FYLC) apartments since the first grade.
“It was a lot nicer when we moved into here,” he said. “Our old apartment was really small. It definitely felt better.”
Villa Hermosa takes over the previous location held by FYLC, which was built in the 1930s as temporary housing for migrant workers. It consists of 253 cinder block units at about 700 square feet each, occupied by farm workers and retired farm workers.
Villa Hermosa is the latest multi-family housing development brought forth by the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition, a nonprofit housing developer based in Indio. This is just the first phase of CVHC’s plan to provide Eastern Coachella Valley families with a safe, affordable place to live. The second phase will begin as families move into the new units and the old units are demolished.
CVHC was approached repeatedly by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the City of Indio, and the County of Riverside to take over FYLC, known locally as “El Campo.” In 2007, CVHC finally agreed on the condition that they could improve the living standards in all units. At the time, many units did not have air conditioning and some had leaky roofs and faulty plumbing. Over the years, CVHC has also implemented an array of programs including an annual holiday toy drive and an after school tutoring program.
One benefit of the new complex is the addition of Wi-Fi for all families to enjoy.
“It helps a lot that we have Wi-Fi,” said Andrade. “Over there [FYLC] we didn’t have that. I can now do my homework at home and not have to go anywhere else.”
Speaking alongside his mother and brother, Andrade said one noticeable change for the entire family was the peace that surrounds the complex.
“It’s calm. Over there at our old place, it was dangerous at night. There were no streetlights and there were a lot of kids doing bad things. Here we have those lights and it’s more peaceful,” he said.
“Recognizing the historical value of this long-standing community, CVHC made every effort to find a way to keep the existing units through renovations, upgrades and/or additions,” said Nadia Villagran, director of communications and operations for CVHC. “But the cinder-block shacks are simply not up to CVHC’s high housing standards or fair housing laws. Building new units was the right thing to do.”
As the summer draws near, temperatures will soon skyrocket above 100 degrees. The Andrade family will enjoy the comfort of a built in air conditioner into their apartment.
“It’s a lot cheaper than our old one,” said Andrade. “It’s a lot more efficient too. The old apartment didn’t have one built in. The apartment was built first and then came the air conditioner. It’s definitely a benefit for us.”
According to the Community Services Department of CVHC, there are a total of 127 youth living at Villa Hermosa: nine children between the ages of 0 and 5; fifty-five children between 6 and 12; and 33 between 13 and 17.
After graduating from Indio High School this June, Andrade plans to attend California State University Stanislaus in the fall. He hopes to become a nurse practitioner.