DAYTON - Amidst the echo of hammers and power tools, family members and volunteers labor through long days as participants in Citizens for Affordable Homes Inc.'s self-help housing program. Irwin Union Bank has made that dream of home ownership a reality for eight families now building in Gold Country Estates.
"We had exhausted every option from manufactured housing to new home purchasing," said Sean Keith, who with his fiancee, Adrienne Sheppard, is building a home in Dayton. "And once this is done, we'll be paying about what we're paying now for rent."
Keith is not alone.
Home sales in Dayton Valley have increased in recent years, making it difficult for the average, two-income family to afford a house, said Cindy Day, loan processor for CAHI.
Maria Cortes, who is the vice principal's secretary at Eagle Valley Middle School in Carson City, put her application in more than a year ago and was notified in November 2006 that she qualified.
"I had first gone through a loan company and found out that, with my income and being single, I couldn't afford (to buy a home)," she said. "Then I put in an application with CAHI and what do you know! I'm working!"
Eric Machado, whose job it is to "teach (families) to build a quality home," is construction foreman for the Dayton project.
"Besides getting a smoking deal on a nice house, they're getting a sense of pride in building their own home," he said. "And they'll take care of it because they've been in the process from the ground up."
Home owners promise to fulfill 35 hours each week (17.5 mandatory required by head of household) toward the construction of their own as well as their neighbors' homes. These volunteer hours are invaluable - they count toward a family's commitment.
Self-help combined with a full-time job is challenging even for the most optimistic person, Machado said.
"They get burned out from having no time off and that can be hard," Machado said. "But in the end, it's all worth it."
Machado is planning a work day where former CAHI families will give a day building.
"It will be great and we'll get a lot done because everyone working will already know what they're doing," he said.
Monica and Luis Diosado commute from South Lake Tahoe to work on their home.
"This is a big opportunity for people who don't have that much money and we've looked around but there was nothing affordable," said Luis, who has lived in Tahoe for 22 years and knows buying a home there will most likely never happen for him.
"Most people I know at the lake are working two or three jobs just to make rent and basics."
The couple had planned to move to Las Vegas to make more money, but weren't excited about raising their daughter there.
"I heard about CAHI, talked with my wife and made the decision," Luis said.
For Monica, the most important factor is having a community and home where she feels comfortable raising her children.
By the time families move in, they've formed relationships with their neighbors and have learned valuable skills.
"We'll never have to call a handyman for help," Keith said, adding the nearly 18-month wait while challenging, was worth it. "Every mortgage broker we talked with said we would have to make at least $30 an hour (combined) to get into a house. Even in Dayton. We were never going to be making enough money."
In spite of the challenges, there are also good times.
"This is a long, tiring process but it's also fun being out here," Sheppard said. "Eric makes it fun."
For Machado, creating a positive experience for the families is critical to their success.
"I like teaching them and seeing them finally move into their homes," he said. "It's pretty rewarding."
• Contact reporter Karel Ancona-Henry at firstname.lastname@example.org or 246-4000.