386 W. Rio
Communities Blvd.

P.O. Box 8
Belen, NM 87002
(505) 864-6654
fax (505) 864-2826

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Habitat for Humanity

Building Neighborhoods in Central New Mexico

Rio Communities' Newest Neighborhood is
Valencia County’s first Habitat Community

"Sweat equity" provides affordable new housing

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Above: This the first built-out street of the new Habitat community in Rio del Oro. Overlooking it are an elevated water reservoir on the left and Manzano Vista Middle School on the right.  Habitat families contribute 500 hours of labor to their homes. They’re aided by college and high school students who spend their vacation working to eliminate substandard housing.

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Someone has said,
"Owning your own home is part of the American dream."

Habitat for Humanity in Valencia County believes 1500 families are now living here in substandard housing. Habitat’s goal is to stamp out that problem by 2025. To do it, they depend on the generosity of volunteers, the willing “sweat equity” of Habitat families, and business partners in finance, construction and development. VIA is among those partners. In fact, VIA was named Partner of the Year in 2002.

Last year, VIA provided both technical assistance and affordable building lots, according to Kevin Cronk, director of Valencia Habitat’s staff of nine. More importantly, VIA provided a long-term focus: Valencia County’s first Habitat Community, located west of Las Maravillas and southeast of Pasitos del Cielo. Twelve homes are already up and occupied in the first phase of 26 lots that VIA developed for Habitat last year. Habitat’s total effort for last year added 18 homes in Valencia County—10 more Habitat homes than were built in the city of Albuquerque.

Three of the 20 houses Habitat has targeted for construction this year are earmarked for the efforts of 200 collegians, who are using their Spring Break from classes to travel from campuses as far from New Mexico as Massachusetts and Alaska.

They will be joined both by volunteers and those who will occupy the finished products, Cronk said. Habitat families must give 500 hours of their time to move in and enjoy the fruits of their labor, paying only $300 a month for their own home.

Providing their volunteer spirit in a two-week visit during the summer months will be a youth camp comprised of 16 high schoolers, from a range of backgrounds. Cronk said their goal is to build a single home. They will reside in a dormitory building in Los Lunas during their stay, he said.

“Our budget is an investment approximating that of the entire state,” the director explained. “We spent $1.2 million on construction materials in 2002, while the state budgeted $1.8 million.”

The portion devoted to administrative costs is just 3%, Cronk said. In June, a campaign will begin to attract $2.1 million in additional dollars to be used toward the construction of the next 100 houses.

A former special needs teacher of Los Lunas children, Cronk became interested in the Habitat program, fueled by corporate sponsorships and very little in Federal funding, when he joined student government leaders in the delivery of Christmas baskets to the needy at Thanksgiving 1994.

“I observed a family of seven living in a shack made of pallets and tar paper,” he said. “Their total space was 16 feet by 20 feet and the floor was dirt. I knew then that my life’s goal was to find an answer.”

The next year, Habitat For Humanity opened in Valencia County. Ten persons were involved at the outset, made up of Cronk’s friends, people from his church and, as he jokingly added, “those with a pulse.”

--Reprinted from the March 2003 Valley Improvement Association Newsletter


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