Apolinar Polanco and his wife, Maria, have received what may be the best possible Christmas present: a home of their own.
They took ownership of the new three-bedroom, two-bath house in Coachella earlier this month.
“It’s achieving the American dream,” Polanco said in Spanish, speaking through a translator. It’s not the biggest house, he said, but it is theirs.
Polanco, 63, and his wife, 67, moved to Coachella from Mexico about 35 years ago in search of a better life for their children. They have six grown children and a slew of grandchildren. One child, a son in college, lives with them.
The Polancos are among 13 low-income families who joined 182 other families who built their homes in the Los Jardines Self Help Subdivision with assistance from the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition. The way the program operates, 10 to 15 families work together for up to a year building each other’s houses. Everyone moves in at the same time.
According to the coalition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Rural Development provides each family with a low-interest mortgage. Families also qualify for mortgage subsidies.
“The act of building the homes, or ‘sweat equity,’ becomes each family’s down payment,” a press release from the coalition says.
Polanco, a carpenter by trade, has been on disability since 2003. He used his construction knowledge to help build the 13 houses. He showed other homeowners how to do things and his sons contributed sweat labor.
Polanco’s wife worked at a carrot packing plant before retiring.
Before moving into their house, the Polancos lived in the same apartment in Coachella for 23 years. It had four bedrooms. Asked what it was like raising a family in that environment, Polanco said it wasn’t that hard; it was larger than what they had in Mexico, a one-room dwelling.
The Polancos applied for a house in the Los Jardines subdivision because it would be something they could call their own.
Polanco said when they learned they had been selected to live in the subdivision, they didn’t believe it at first and were in shock. Every time they visited the coalition’s offices, they thought the agency was going to take the house away, especially since they don’t work and are retired. Coalition staff members would reassure them everything was fine, the house was theirs.
But the house would mean nothing to Polanco without his wife to share it.
During construction, Maria Polanco became very ill and was admitted into intensive care at a San Diego hospital. She had been on dialysis for five years and the situation was bleak, but she ended up getting a new kidney.
“She’s doing good,” said her doting husband of 46 years. “With God’s blessing, there will be no more struggles.”