Gustavo Aceves is psyched about getting a room of his own.
At 7, he's still sharing a bedroom with his mom and dad, because his older sister, Laura, 10, has spina bifida and needs a lot of space for medical equipment and a nurse who is with the family most of the time.
The little boy's family lives in a mobile home on a dairy in Denair, where his father, Jose Aceves, works, but they soon will own a three-bedroom home in Modesto's airport neighborhood, thanks to Habitat for Humanity, Stanislaus.
"I can live all by myself in a room," Gustavo said as he and his pregnant mother, Fabriola Aceves, toured a busy construction site Monday morning.
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Sometime this spring, the Aceves family will move into a three-bedroom home on Tenaya Drive, which, along with two other properties nearby, is in the midst of a top-to- bottom renovation.
Thanks to volunteer labor, donated materials and government grants, the Aceves will have a mortgage near $100,000, which is well below the county's median home price of $281,250. And their monthly mortgage payments will never be more than
30 percent of their income.
The program that puts housing in reach of low-income residents got a big boost from 200 volunteers who celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day by swinging hammers, knocking down walls and ripping shingles off the roofs of homes at 1120 Tenaya Drive, 1114 Tenaya Drive and 1125 Del Mar Court.
Most of the volunteers were from Kaiser Permanente, though students from Modesto Junior College and parishioners from several churches, including First United Methodist Church of Modesto, which is donating $15,000 to put an extra bedroom on the Aceves' new house, helped as well.
Longtime volunteer Beth Sims of Modesto, a retired middle school teacher, said the homes help families transform their lives, bring stability to the community and give volunteers a chance to share their own good fortune.
"The dedications are always teary,"
Habitat for Humanity builds and rehabilitates homes for people who cannot secure loans from traditional lenders. Families who qualify usually earn from
30 percent to 50 percent of the region's median income, or somewhere between $16,800 and $28,000 for a family of four.
Participants must put in 500 hours of "sweat equity," usually on homes others will occupy. They can't sell their new home to make a quick buck, because Habitat for Humanity retains a right of first refusal should a family move.
The group, a Christian mission that began in Georgia, has been building homes in Stanislaus County since 1989. According to Anita Hellam, executive director of the local chapter, the three homes that now are under the hammer were purchased for below-market rates from Gallo Glass Co.
A tidy yellow house on nearby Santa Rita Avenue, which includes solar panels to keep fuel costs low, is a good example of the kind of work Habitat does.
And Hellam expects more than 1,500 applicants for a 20-home project on
1.8 acres near Mark Twain Junior High School in west Modesto, which is dubbed Hope Village.
Waiting in the wings is Gloria Abarca, 51, who lives with friends but soon will own the Habitat home on Del Mar Court.
She has worked on several homes since her application was accepted more than two years ago, learning to pour cement foundations, dig trenches and build fences. The child-care worker said she is grateful to the program that will turn her into a homeowner.
"I could never afford a home on my own," Abarca said.
To volunteer or learn more about Habitat for Humanity, call 575-4585.Bee staff writer Susan Herendeen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2338.