Housing / Land Use

Riverview Estates taking shape

Framing begins on two homes with 22 more to go in this self-housing project.
Framing. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Framing. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Plan for rooms. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Plan for rooms. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Framing. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Framing. Photo by Robert Eliason.

This is part II of the Riverview Estates Project series. Read part I here.

 

For over a month, members of 24 families have been making their way every day to the Riverview Estates construction site on Southside Road to continue building the houses they will be calling home sometime next year. With supervision and training provided by the Community Services Development Corporation (CSDC), these first-time carpenters have gone from learning how to use a hammer and saw to successfully framing out their first two buildings.

Seth Capron, who has been substituting recently for the vacationing supervisor Bobby Ruvalcaba, said that everyone is making “incredible progress.”

“We are still moving a little slowly as people are being trained,” said Capron, a former supervisor for South County Housing. “But we will be done framing walls in a couple of weeks, then we will be putting up the trusses for the roofs.”

As the work progresses and more skills are added, the project will start moving faster.

“The reason this program works,” Capron said, “is that eventually different people are going to learn to do different tasks. If they were building their own homes from start to finish, it would take forever. But if they can learn a single task, then they can do that in every one of the houses in their group, with somebody else coming behind them learning another task. Then it becomes like a production line to a certain extent.”

Overall, Capron has been impressed by the enthusiasm of the families as they learn and work.

“When I first got started, I was a little concerned,” he said. “When people who have never swung a hammer before start pounding nails, it is a little awkward. But they are picking it up fast. They are not just showing initiative, but a real native ability to learn these skills.”

While Capron said that several of the workers showed leadership skills, he singled out Michelle Conrique.

“She’s got a lot of initiative, he said. “When people start out, they are hesitant to take things on because they don’t want to make a mistake. But she has done a lot of these tasks several times by now. And if I am not there to supervise, she will keep the work going.”

Conrique applied for a spot in the program as soon as she heard about it. 

“I am really appreciative for the chance to be in this project,” she said. “I do have family in the construction business, so I grew up with a little bit of knowledge about the details that go into something like this. And I appreciate the hands-on instruction that puts everything together from start to finish. And these guys are good teachers.”

Delays to the launch of the program due to COVID restrictions were frustrating to Conrique, as is the prospect of having to work in the heat this summer. But she is enthusiastic about the program having a good start.

“It has been a while since they have done a project like this,” she said. “So I think we are kind of the guinea pigs, and it seems to be starting out slow. But I think it will pick up fast and we will be picking up knowledge we can use in the future. We will know the basics and be able to maintain our own homes.”

Holding progress back a little is the loss of a supervisor who had been working with the group. Capron is hoping that someone will contact the CSDC and step in to help keep things running smoothly.

“We are looking for two more construction supervisors,” he said, “Maybe a knowledgeable construction person who has been swinging a hammer or a retired contract worker who wants to give something back. This is extremely satisfying work and the families are great. They are young, strong and enthusiastic. These are their houses. They want to do the best job they can.”

 

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Robert Eliason

I got my start as a photographer when my dad stuck a camera in my hand on the evening of my First Grade Open House. He taught me to observe, empathize, then finally compose the shot.  The editors at BenitoLink first approached me as a photographer. They were the ones to encourage me to write stories about things that interest me, turning me into a reporter as well.  BenitoLink is a great creative family that cares deeply about the San Benito community and I have been pleased to be a part of it.