By Keli James, PR communications coordinatorCPLC

Chicanos Por La Causa’s (CPLC) Self-Help Housing Program participants recently finished building four new homes, part of a 20-year-old effort to make home ownership attainable for low-income county residents.

Since 1997, 260 low-interest loans were financed through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to build self-help homes in Santa Cruz County.

Low interest loans for the homes and property are manageable for members of the county’s large low-income population, around $500 a month or less, according to the families citing their mortgage payments.

Since families are expected to do 65 percent of the construction work, it greatly reduces the home prices. However, contractors do the more technical work. And the personal connection to building a home has contributed to the program’s low foreclosure rate, which is about 1 percent.

“That’s the sweat equity,” said CPLC coordinator Corina Fragozo. “The reason is the families put their sweat into these homes and there’s a love for the home,” she added. “We don’t see very many foreclosures in our self-help program. They’ve invested nine months in building this house.”

Under the USDA contract, RCAC provides assistance to grantees in the western United States to successfully complete the production of single family financed housing under Mutual Self-Help Housing program; view RCAC’s Self-Help Western Region Grantee Guide. RCAC coordinates all activities with USDA staff and regularly reports on each grantee’s activity and performance production.