Reprinted with permission from Self-Help Enterprises | Aug. 28, 2019
Antonio and Erica Rodriguez could not believe it when a friend told them that Self-Help Enterprises was building in Planada. They were excited and knew this could be their chance at homeownership, at last. “When my wife saw the tractors moving at the Planada location, she called me excited. They are starting!”
As a small business owner, Antonio always felt a sense of pride for his town. Planada has always been home; a place to grow and go to school; and a place for his family to earn a living. Their shop has been a family-owned business of over 20 years. At age 12, Antonio began helping his dad with oil changes and other simple mechanical work. His love for mechanics and entrepreneurship only grew as he got older.
He later took over the family business and expanded it. As a true community-oriented leader, he was on a mission to fill the service gaps that he saw in his beloved town. Today, it is a tire shop, smog check center, and recycler: the only one providing these services in area.
Planada is a census-designated place in Merced County, located nine miles east of the City of Merced with total population fast approaching 5,000. The area is nearby Yosemite National Park, UC Merced and shows potential for future job growth. The median home price in Planada is about $141,000 while median income is about $35,700.
Antonio first reached out to Self-Help Enterprises back in 2016 in hopes of getting more information about how he could qualify for a home.
As a first step, families inquiring about SHE’s homeownership programs are connected to our Gateway Program where families work with a certified counselor and are provided the tools and resources needed to meet their financial and homeownership goals. In was there that Antonio began working with Juanita Franco, a certified housing counselor for Self-Help Enterprises’ Gateway Program.
“Juanita first reached out to us after looking at our intake form,” said Antonio. “She had us look at our credit scores and told us to work on bringing our debt lower.”
Together they reviewed their credit reports and family budget. Juanita was able to create an action plan with items that Antonio and Erica needed to work on and they surely did. Every six months, Juanita called Antonio to check in on their progress and offered any additional guidance.
“It has been a pleasure working with Antonio on his journey to homeownership,” said Juanita. “He’s very active in our coaching sessions and has so much enthusiasm. He’s very passionate about maintaining his credit and his community. Best wishes to him and his family in Planada.”
Fun fact: Juanita and Antonio have never actually met in person. One of the many benefits of our Gateway program is that in addition to gaining valuable tools and resources, families can go through our educational programs from the comfort of their home, using our online course options and phone calls with their counselors.
After three years of working closely with Juanita, Antonio and his family are finally homeownership-ready. They successfully eliminated their debt and increased their income. And while their journey to homeownership is not over, they are excited to be on the list of the soon-to-be Planada subdivision of new mutual self-help homes.
Antonio’s love for Planada is seen and felt through his work. “I grew up here, and I want my kids to have a better life here. There is crime everywhere, but at least we know everyone here and we know what is going on. Both my wife and I want to stay in Planada to continue to raise our family.” Together, Antonio and Erica have two beautiful children.
“The homeownership workshops helped us out a lot,” smiled Antonio. “We are more knowledgeable now! And when people ask about our experience, I tell them that if we can get help from this entity with our mortgage or even our down payment assistance, why not?!”