Mutual Self-Help housing participants at the Riverview Estates II construction site.

Where: Hollister, San Benito County, CA

Problem: The lack of affordable housing prevents residents from continuing to live in the communities where they work.

Solution: RCAC’s partnership with the Community Services Development Corporation (CSDC) helps families attain homeownership through Self-Help Housing.

Hollister is a city with a majority-Latino population of approximately 40,000 in San Benito County, California. Agribusiness and food processing has historically been central to the local economy. The city belongs to the greater Monterey Bay Area and is serviced by California highways in all directions. Hollister has grown rapidly in the past decade and transformed into a bedroom community for residents who work in the Bay Area or remotely, a trend intensified by the onset of COVID-19. A stark imbalance in supply and demand has further diminished affordability in housing markets. Meanwhile, the rise in area median income has driven up income limits for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA-RD) programs’ eligibility. Cost-prohibitive housing is driving low- and middle-income residents out of the region and steadily displacing Hollister’s community members and essential workforce.

San Benito County Community Services Development Corporation (CSDC) was founded in 1984 to meet low-income families’ housing needs. Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC) has extensively served the region as a source of training, technical assistance and financial assistance for nonprofit housing organizations, while the region has a long history of participation in USDA-RD Mutual Self-Help (MSH) housing programs. Dennis Lalor, the late CEO and president of nonprofit community development corporation South County Housing (SCH), was instrumental in helping RCAC and CSDC form a partnership in 2016. RCAC provides technical assistance and financing to CSDC to implement and manage the Mutual Self-Help Housing program.

CSDC obtained a 4.88-acre parcel of land from San Benito County in 2018 to develop Riverview Estates II, a 24-lot self-help housing subdivision. RCAC provided CSDC with a $2.5 million loan for site construction and technical assistance to obtain USDA-RD grants. The homes at Riverview Estates II will feature energy-efficient passive solar design, landscaped front yards, two-car garages and scenic hillside views. In early 2022, 24 families selected from 741 applicants began working on the subdivision. As with all self-help housing programs, participants provide at least 65 percent of the labor required (known as “sweat equity”) to build their homes with the assistance of an onsite construction supervisor. Delays due to weather and the pandemic have pushed the projected completion date from March to June 2023.

“RCAC played a key role in making this project a reality at a reasonable cost that ultimately trickles down to local families and saves them money,” said Sonny Flores, executive director of CSDC. “In terms of guidance, oversight, financial commitment and training, RCAC is making sure we succeed.”