The Lemus family, from left Adriana, Leonel, Angela, Jesus and Josue (not pictured) are part of 205 families that have new homes at the Jardines housing development in Coachella. The houses were part of the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition new 205 homes.(Photo: J. Omar Ornelas/ The Desert Sun)Buy Photo
Leonel Lemus and his wife Adriana became homeowners in March, before then the couple, along with their three children, lived in a cramped two-bedroom apartment in Indio. Lemus’s dream of owning his home came true through the self-help housing program offered through a partnership between the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition and U.S. Department of Agriculture.
On Thursday a block party and grand opening was held at the Los Jardines Mutual Help Subdivision in Coachella. The event celebrated the 205 families who recently completed their homes. As part of the program 10 to15 families work together for up to 12 months to build their homes and those of their neighbors. All the families move in at the same time. “The building process was long and difficult, we had to work through the summer,” Lemus said in Spanish. “It was definitely worth it.” Lemus said that now his children are happier and feel comfortable in their new neighborhood.
Ballet Folklorico Sol del Desierto during the festivities at the Jardines housing development in Coachella. The houses were part of the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition new 205 homes that were built by the new homeowners. “All of my neighbors are good, hard-working people. We feel very safe around them,” he said. The program aims to help low income people, who often times lack access to affordable and adequate housing.
“Housing is a big issue in this area, these are very lucky people,” CVHC Executive Director John Mealey said. “There is not a lot of money out there to help people that are lower income.”
According to the USDA, in Riverside County, a family of four that earns less than $53,600 a year is considered low income and a family of four earning less than $33,500 is very low income. Cities with the same program include North Shore, Thermal and Desert Hot Springs
Lidio Bello and his wife Guadalupe, along with their two children, moved in to their home in December. He heard about the program through family and friends. “So I went in and got my application and I also got help with establishing my credit,” Bello said.
The family used to pay $900 a month to rent a house in Coachella. The mortgage on their new four-bedroom house is $745 a month.
Buy Photo Graciela Gamboa and her daughter Evelyn Gamboa enjoy their new home at the Jardines housing development in Coachella. The houses were part of the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition new 205 homes. (Photo: J. Omar Ornelas/ The Desert Sun)
Between Bello’s job working in landscaping and his wife’s working in the fields, owning a house seemed like a far -etched idea.
“My wife and I have always wanted to own a home, but the prices were always so expensive and we couldn’t afford it,” he said.
More than 1,600 families have built mutual self-help homes across Riverside and Imperial counties with the assistance of CVHC. The building process becomes each family’s down payment. “They have the guts — they have the smarts to be able to put in the time to build the house for their family, ” Mealey said. Paulina Rojas covers the east valley for The Desert Sun.