Almost 20 months ago, 12 families began transforming the site of an old demolished hospital on Southside Road into Riverview Estates II as they learned how to build their own homes with the help of the Community Services Development Corporation (CSDC). On August 11, they were finally able to put down their hammers and saws and take possession of their front door keys in a moving-in celebration.
“This was an incredible experience,” said Andrea Ayala-Avila. I am really happy to see all the houses finished, and I’m happy to see my family get their home. I’m also excited because I got to work on all these houses along with all of these neighbors.”
The 24-unit Riverview Estates self-housing project broke ground on Jan. 8, 2022, when the first 12 families were introduced to the rudiments of residential carpentry, beginning with framing the walls.
“It was very hard in the beginning,” said Eloina Gomez. “My husband works 40 hours a week, sometimes more, and I work 40 hours a week. We both could be very tired, but now, after 18 months of hard work, we are very proud to be able to walk into our own home.”
Starting the project at the height of the pandemic was a challenge, said CSDC Executive Director Sonny Flores, and supply issues, along with months of heavy rain, added four months to the construction, which was originally scheduled to end in April.
“These families overcame a lot of obstacles and challenges,” he said, “You could see the families were definitely getting fatigued, but they kept pushing forward, as tired as they were, and here we are today with them getting their keys.”
The program was open to low-income families, and each family was required to put in a minimum of 40 hours a week on the site. Over 740 families applied to build one of the 24 homes, and similar programs have been used to build over 350 homes in the city over the last 20 years.
“I am so proud today,” said Project Manager Bobby Ruvalcaba, “I can hardly contain myself. I came out of retirement to help with this project, and I have become very close to all of the families. I have had such a great experience that I might be willing to do it again.”
As the families collected their keys and their certificates of completion issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Flores surprised each with a $500 check issued by the Community Foundation, a gift from a private donor to help with moving-in expenses. Three Traeger Wood Fired Grills, donated by McKinnon’s Lumber, were also raffled off.
During the ceremony, District 3 Supervisor Mindy Sotelo congratulated the families on their work and perseverance.
“This is so incredible and so life changing.,” she said. “So many people at the USDA, the CSDC and our partners helped to make this happen. But I know you have been the ones working hardest, putting in your blood, sweat, and tears.”
The second group of 12 families began their homes on May 21 and are expected to finish as early as the end of October. Ruvalcaba said that watching the first families complete their homes was a huge motivator for the second group.
“I could definitely see it in the last week or so as the others were finishing up,” he said. “They have to be anxious, so I am going to do my best to make their dreams come true for Christmas.”
Flores said that there is no similar project currently being planned in the county, but it is something he would like to see in the future.
“We’re talking with potential developers to help meet their affordability requirements for their future projects,” Flores said. “It would probably be two to three years before we can put another project together, but it’s an extremely rewarding project for everyone who is involved in it.”
Families begin building their own houses at Riverview Estates (01/11/22)
Riverview Estates taking shape (02/17/22)
Bobby Ruvalcaba leads self-housing project (04/19/22)
Hollister man comes full circle with self-housing program (05/24/22/)
Volunteers from Oregon lend a hand to self-housing families (06/15/2022)
12 Riverview Estates families just a few months from moving in (08/15/22)
Open House at Riverview Self-Housing lets families see their new homes (10/22/22)
Storms delay Hollister self-housing project (03/03/23)
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