You Ask. We Investigate.® Dream Home Dilemma

You Ask. We Investigate.® Dream Home Dilemma

Martín Di Felice

Coachella, CA

It’s the American dream: owning your own home.

Some families in the Coachella Valley are facing a dream home dilemma, and they are blaming the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition.

The coalition they say is changing the financing rules at the last minute, and they can’t afford it.

The Coachella Valley Housing Coalition helps low income families achieve that dream of owning a home.

It arranges affordable financing and the families help with the construction, but some families in Coachella say now they feel trapped after learning they will have to come up with $20,000 more at the last minute.

"The idea of owning my own home was far-fetched, something I though I never would be able to do," said Lorena Venegas who is building her own first home in Coachella.

She took out a loan through the USDA, and is working through the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition.
"I’m proud of everything I’ve done, I walk around it and I can’t believe I had a part in all my neighbors houses."

Lorena currently has three jobs: mom of three teens, a full-time job with a general contractor and building her home.
"Take the kids to school, go in at 7 o’clock in the morning, get off of work at 3:30 in the afternoon, run straight home. Get to work at 4 o’clock, 4:30 until about 8 o’clock."

Lorena closed escrow in November 2014, but construction didn’t start for more than a year.
Now the house is almost done, and she got shocking news from the housing coalition.

"I was told that there was additional cost of $21,000 I need to come up with."
Lorena and 43 other neighbors only have a few options which include get a loan through the USDA get a loan through the coalition, or, "option three, breach of contract."

Lorena has literally put blood, sweat and tears in this home, and doesn’t understand why just now they’re being told about this big increase in cost.
"We’re supposed to be thinking about the sheets, and the colors on the wall, and telling our kids, now not sure to tell my kids that we may or may not move in." 

Looking for answers, we went to the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition.
President Julie Bornstein tells us this kind of price jump has never happened before.
"I felt terrible, we’re all connected to Coachella Valley housing, because we want to help low-income, hard-working people enjoy the benefits of home ownership."

Who would you say is to blame for this circumstance?
Bornstein responded, "Well I don’t think there’s any single source. The fact that the homes are larger than we anticipated definitely required them to cost more."

She says it’s a perfect storm of problems. 
Because there were already homes on this block before the housing coalition purchased the land, the city had more requirements for these homes.
They are larger, with more add-ons with some useless like the chimneys, with no fireplaces.

"It was a gradual item that went into the house so we did not know how much it would be until we got this close to completion," said Bornstein.

So why is the price being passed on to the homeowners, and why are they learning about it just now?

"Because the families own the lot, they own the home, they pack the mortgage, and what gives them the opportunity to participate is they provide the sweat equity to build their homes, but that is a program requirement that the individual families are responsible for the overages."

When did you realize that it was going to run over by this amount? 
Bornstein responded, "By this amount? only about a month or so ago."

Lorena says she would like, "Answers as far as a breakdown, I would like an apology, I would like better communication."

Meanwhile, Lorena isn’t sure what she’s going to do next: pay more on a home she’s already invested so much?
"Family, memories, good memories, not bad."

The foundation built with the best intentions now feels shaky.
Lorena wants to build good memories in this house.
A home that’s been a labor of love.

We also talked to the city of Coachella.
The planning director tells us while they encouraged the housing coalition to try to match the size of the other homes, they didn’t set the exact size.

They suggested the architects should have done a better job of estimating the cost. 

Maybe so but that does not help the families.
So what happens next? 
At least for now, families will decide to take out another loan or walk away from a labor of love.