Jeanette Ortega and nine other families have been building their new homes in the Villages of Patterson development since December 2019. Located on Walnut Avenue, the community promises to be a beautiful addition to Patterson’s east side.

Special financing from the Department of Agriculture and the state of California make homeownership a reality for those who don’t qualify for traditional loans. Self-Help Enterprises --SHE -- has been securing low-income home mortgages for families like Jeanette’s since 1965. In fact, Jeanette’s mom, Dora -- onsite and shovel in hand to support her daughter and grandson -- built her own Patterson home through the same program in 1988.

The homes are built under the mutual self-help method, where each family works on 10 houses together. Labor hours, or “sweat equity,” are used as the down payment on their new homes, reducing costs and making ownership affordable.

SHE offers homeownership education that includes budget plans and down payment assistance resources—opening doors metaphorically by literally putting the keys in the hands of people who work for their reward.  

Families are currently working on the homes Tuesday through Saturday. Each family is required to provide 40 hours of service per week, and construction is usually anticipated to take nine months to a year to complete.

Work hours can be completed by the owners-to-be, any household member 16 years of age and older and approved helpers. They participate in all aspects of construction, from foundation and framing to wiring and plumbing, with onsite supervision and guidance from skilled construction staff.

Families contribute to each house in their group, and no one is allowed to move in until all are able. This plan creates a community bond and helps build relationships that maintain a sense of pride that doesn’t come with the traditional home buying experience.

Ortega feels well prepared to take on the responsibility of owning her own home. She looks forward to the stability it will provide her son, noting that this is an investment that could potentially serve her family for generations to come.

Dora agrees. She still owns the home she built in 1988, but now she uses it as a rental property.

California’s San Joaquin Valley is the most productive agricultural area in the United States. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most impoverished areas of the state.

Many of those who work the fields and dairies that feed the world live in substandard conditions, sometimes without basic necessities like running water and sewer services.

Self-Help Enterprises provides other services to local valley communities that help in these areas. Identifying clean water resources and repairing wells, developing sanitary sewer systems, and assisting low-income families with securing health and safety home renovations are some of the programs that are available.

For more information on building your own home in Patterson, contact Lupe Felix at (559) 971-0168 or go to the Self-Help Enterprises website at


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