Alana Castellanos. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Alana Castellanos. Photo by Robert Eliason.

Significant progress has been made by the 24 families that have been building their own homes in the Community Services Development Corporation’s Riverview Estates project. The first 12 families began working in January and plan to move into their finished houses by Dec. 15.

“Things are going fantastic with the first group,” said Project Manager Bobby Ruvalcaba. “They have learned so much in the seven months they have been working. They only have three roof trusses left to put on, we have inspections coming up on six of the lots, and the people are really moving.”

The first group will also get an assist from Climatize, a company whose app enables people to invest spare change from their daily purchases into environmental projects. They aim to raise $60,000 to increase the size of the solar rooftop installations on the first 12 houses built.

“One of the biggest challenges has been that the cost of solar panels has gone up so much,” said Community Services Development Executive Director Sonny Flores. “The families could only budget for the minimum requirements, and the extra funds would allow us to install enough panels to produce enough solar energy for the whole house. But even if we don’t make that goal, any extra panels will help.”

Climatize finds projects like Riverview and then works with engineers to verify the economic and technical feasibility of the project. 

“If we successfully raise the money for the first 12 houses, then we will also try to fund the other 12 houses,” said chief sales officer & co-founder of Climatize, Alba Forns. “Having the chance to size those solar panels correctly will make a very big difference in the environmental impact. We think that people in Hollister will want to support this project which is so important because low-income families have a harder time raising money.” 

Alana Castellanos, a member of the second group of workers, said she has lived in apartment buildings all her life, and when a family member told her about this project, she applied immediately.

“If we did not have this opportunity, we might have had to move out of the town or the state,” she said. “The hours can be hard because I have to work and then take care of my five kids. But I am out here four days a week, and it gets a little easier every time.”

Castellanos had no experience in construction before but has become competent in a short time.

“This has been a really nice experience,” she said. “I really like going on the roof, and I am hoping they let me do more work up there. I think I could do it as a regular job because I feel like I am learning and can do things here that I never thought I could do.”   

The second group of 12 families, who began work on May 21, have also made progress and could finish their new homes by next February.

“In just a matter of two months, they have gotten six houses framed,” Ruvalcaba said. “All six have the shear panel on, and their porches are built. They have really gotten a jump on it, and I expect them to catch up with the first group by the end of the year.”

According to Ruvalcaba, the second group can work faster, thanks partly to the first group having run across snags in the construction that the second group can now avoid.

“They knocked all the cobwebs out,” he said. “They got everything worked out with the plans and changes that came up. Everything can move forward more easily because the first group did that groundwork.” 


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