ATASCADERO -— Eleven local families lined up Friday Feb. 24, to receive the keys to their brand new homes — most of which they constructed themselves through a program offered by local nonprofit organization Peoples’ Self-Help Housing.
The families have put in an average of 1,600 hours working on their homes over more than a year, spending up to 40 hours per week in the evenings and on weekends. The homes are located on the property known as the Triangle Lot, formed between the intersecting streets of Atascadero, San Andres and Navajoa avenues.
“We celebrate something today that’s a great accomplishment not only for this organization (Peoples’ Self-Help Housing), but for each one of these families, and it’s a place where ultimately family and the true experience of family can be embodied,” said Jeff Urke, of Atascadero Bible Church, while delivering an invocation and asking for God’s blessings for the property.
“This whole project embodies the idea of ‘together,’” Urke said. “When I see a project like this take off and we see homes built and we see families sharing and pitching in and helping each other out, it gives me hope. There’s such a great sense of ‘together,’ and that’s ultimately how our community thrives and it’s an amazing thing to have right here in the middle of Atascadero.”
Peoples’ Self-Help Housing President/CEO John Fowler said that program participants spent most of their spare time for more than a year building foundations, framing walls, constructing roofs and working on landscaping, with project supervision provided through a USDA technical assistance grant. The program gives low-income families access to home ownership that would normally be outside of their reach, Fowler said.
“These folks have to be dedicated to make this happen,” Folwer said. “And you can see by looking around that they did make it happen. It’s a ready-made community and they help each other build those homes.”
According to Fowler, the participating families earn between $38,000 and $56,000 per year and their new homes are worth an estimated $400,000.
Mayor Tom O’Malley recalled building the house that he grew up in with his parents and said it gave him the necessary skills to be a homeowner.
“Not only did my parents learn to build a house, I learned how to take care of stuff — I know how to do electrical and plumbing and all that other kind of stuff — and what a knowledge base to gain and just be well-prepared to be homeowners,” he said.
O’Malley said that Atascadero has been working toward building more affordable housing units and this latest project helped to make the city eligible for state parks funding, including a grant that could help to pay for an inclusive playground at Colony Park being planned by nonprofit Parents for Joy.
“This is going to be an all inclusive park that’s going to happen, quite frankly, because of you and your sweat-equity,” O’Malley told the Self-Help Housing participants. “Not only do you get your own house, you helped your community be eligible for this park area.”
Peoples’ Self-Help Housing is currently planning a new project in San Miguel. Application forms are available at 3533 Empleo St. in San Luis Obispo or online at www.pshhc.org. For more information, call 805-540-2446.