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High Demand For Affordable Homes In Yuma County

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Stephanie Sanchez
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Somerton-Home ownership is a dream for many Americans.  One that can be tough to achieve for low income workers.

Recently, over a dozen families in Yuma county received the keys to new homes and a better life.

KAWC's Stephanie Sanchez tells us more about what it took for these families to achieve their dream.

On a sunny Wednesday morning, Rafael Prado Anaya stands outside the door of his brand new home in the Rollow subdivision just outside the small city of Somerton, Arizona. 

"Thank God I have the keys now," Anaya said in Spanish. "We have a little bit of furniture but we are ready.”

Anaya, who has worked the nearby fields of Yuma county for over a decade, inserts his key and opens the door to a five bedroom, two bath home.

But there is no surprise on Anaya’s face, only relief.  He knows this house, he spent the last year building it.

"I would come work on the house every afternoon on top of the weekends," he said. "It was very tough, I even spent my vacation here from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m."

Anaya is part of a program with the Housing America Corporation.  His income qualified him for a self help housing program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that helps very low income individuals purchase a home.

The average loan amount is around $114,000.

However to qualify, Anaya had to agree to help build his home and the homes of several other program participants within a year.

It’s called “sweat equity.”  each family in the program contributes 65 percent of the work on their new home.

Their labor lowers the costs of the build and they receive training in construction and other skills to complete the work. 

Up and down the street the same scenario is playing out for over a dozen families, as the dream of home ownership and the promise of hard work pay off.  Today they all received occupancy certificates, a document that indicates their homes are move-in ready.

"Most of these families cannot walk into any other bank in obtaining a traditional mortgage," Executive director for Housing America Thomas Ryan said. "This is specifically tailored to their income and their payment is based on their income every year.”

Ryan says most of the program participants in the Rollow estates sub-division are farm workers and single parents.

Ryan says the demand for affordable housing in Yuma county is high, making the county one of the busiest for Housing America in the state. Since the 1980s, the organization has helped over 1,200 families into new homes.

That shortage of affordable housing in this border region makes it tough for workers who want to stay in the area and raise their families.

For some, like Anaya, a home in Somerton means the end of long waits at the border to get to work.

"It was really tough. we moved as soon as we found a place to rent. We thought about our kids’ future and not make them get up really early for school," Anaya said.

Despite their combined income, Anaya and his wife, both U.S. citizens, struggled to find affordable housing in the U.S.

"We lived in trailers, apartments…this is something--compared to where we used to live."

This new house isn’t just an upgrade, it’s also good for the future of Anaya’s family. Housing America Executive Director Thomas Ryan says today is life-changing for families like Anaya’s.

"Home ownership is the only asset I believe that has been proven to break the cycle of poverty," Ryan said.

There are a total of 149 lots in the Rollow subdivision. Some lots sit empty waiting for new program participants, others contain half built homes still under construction. 

But today is about moving in and Anaya can’t wait.

"We are ready, I have my truck outside with my furniture. We’re waiting for the chance to start moving in," Anaya said. 

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Credit Stephanie Sanchez
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Many houses like this one were built through "sweat equity". Each family in the program contribute 65 percent of the work on their new home.

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Credit Stephanie Sanchez
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13 families from Yuma County received their occupancy certificates that indicate their homes are move-in ready at Rollow subdivision just outside of Somerton, Arizona.