New homeowners celebrated in Williams

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Building your own house is not the easiest path to home ownership, but it can be the most rewarding. 

For 10 families in Williams, who could move into their new Valley Ranch homes by the first of the year, their American dream came with added perks. 

“I didn’t know how to use a measuring tape before this or a lot of other tools, so it’s been a learning experience,” said Rafael Hernandez, at an open house last Wednesday of the home he built on Silverleaf Lane through the NeighborWorks home ownership program. “I am so glad for the opportunity to be a part of this group.” 

Although mutual self-help housing programs through the USDA have been around for about 50 years, the 10 nearly-finished homes are the first development for the nonprofit NeighborWorks Sacramento Region. 

The new homeowners spent the past 16 months working 35 hours a week (65 percent of the labor) or more with general contractor and construction foreman, Frank Pasquele, to build their own homes, which offsets the cost of their down payments. 

“Seeing the families move in and the sweat equity they’ve put into this is an amazing experience,” said NeighborWorks CEO Juan Rivera, at the Nov. 28 completion ceremony. “I love it when people are getting their keys.” 

For Robert and Chelsea Hancock, who have three kids and another on the way, leaving a two bedroom Colusa rental for their own five bedroom home in Williams will be a dream come true.

“It’s so exciting,” Chelsea said. “We can’t wait to move in.” 

Robert Hancock, a 2007 graduate of Williams High School, works the night shift as a mechanic at InHarvest Products in Colusa. He said that without the NeighborWorks program, buying a new home in California in today’s market would have been difficult, and that building his own home gave him an even greater sense of achievement and appreciation. 

“It’s amazing,” he said. “All this work going into it really makes (the house) more valuable.” 

Hancock and is father, Bob Hancock, have put in thousands of hours building the new home, working alongside the other homeowners.

“It really does bring everyone together,” Robert said. “I didn’t know any of these people before we started, and now we all know each other. We went into this as strangers and, a year later, we are moving in next to our best friends.” 

Maria Leon, NeighborWorks real estate project specialist, said the nonprofit, whose mission is to provide families with safe, healthy, and affordable housing, relies on a number of partners, including USDA Rural Development, which provided the low interest home loans, the City of Williams, which streamlined the permitting process, architects, banks, and other partners. 

“This does not happen without a collaboration of many, many players at all levels,” Leon said. “We’ve been talking about this since 2014, and it’s so nice to see families that have a future with homeownership. It really takes a community to make this happen.”

Last year, the USDA approved $40 million in self-help loans in California, and $151 million in subsidized loans, said Ron Tackett, USDA Single Family Housing Program director. 

“NeighborWorks has been a really great partner in getting this done, and so have secondary financiers,” Tackett said. “We also thank the City of Williams for inviting us in.” 

Williams City Councilman John Troughton said NeighborWorks is a great fit for the city. He added that he not only looked forward to the additional self-help homes under construction in Valley Ranch, but that he would like to also to see homes built on vacant lots on the west side of town. 

“We support this program, and the families can be very proud of their work,” Troughton said. ■

Susan Meeker is the Editor and Reporter for the Pioneer Review. She started her position with the Pioneer Review in January 2017 as the Advertising Manager. Susan specializes in local crime, government reporting. She also loves covering the various topics and events in our county. You can send her a message at susan@colusacountynews.net