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3/29/2013 6:01:00 AM
They raised the roof - now they'll raise their families
After a down payment of sweat equity, Kingman families enjoy a moving experience
Nine people representing seven Kingman families proudly pose on Wednesday as they received the keys to homes they helped build and now own. From the left are Josh McCoy, Jeanette Quino, Samantha Engels, Heather Banegas, project leader Don Howard, Cheyenne Greene, Eric Greene, Marissa Verdejo, Jesse Verdejo, and Richard Palomera.
Nine people representing seven Kingman families proudly pose on Wednesday as they received the keys to homes they helped build and now own. From the left are Josh McCoy, Jeanette Quino, Samantha Engels, Heather Banegas, project leader Don Howard, Cheyenne Greene, Eric Greene, Marissa Verdejo, Jesse Verdejo, and Richard Palomera.

New parents Eric and Cheyenne Greene (above) stand in front of the kitchen of their brand new home on Wednesday.
New parents Eric and Cheyenne Greene (above) stand in front of the kitchen of their brand new home on Wednesday.

Doug McMurdo
Miner Staff Reporter


KINGMAN - The pride of home ownership took on a very special meaning for seven families Wednesday morning.

After all, not every homeowner spends about a year helping to build his or her own home while helping their neighbors build theirs at the same time.

Thanks in large measure to Housing America Corporation's self-help subdivision program, HAC Estates III opened on Prescott Street when keys were handed over to Samantha and Matt Engels; Eric and Cheyenne Greene; Jesse and Marissa Verdejo; Heather Banegas and her daughter, Hailey; Jeanette Quino and her daughter, Netanya; Richard Palomera; and Scott McCoy.

They called their group Raise the Roof, and now they can raise their families in a safe environment with all eyes on the future.

The families and their helpers were involved in virtually every aspect of homebuilding, from framing to roofing, from tiling floors to painting walls.

Subcontractors handled electric and plumbing issues, concrete work and some of the more involved aspects of the construction process.

So what did they get for their sweat equity?

"What we got was out of a down payment," said Samantha Engels.

"They really gave us lots of incentives (to apply)," said Heather Banegas.

Each family had to put down $600 to start escrow and each attended a homebuilding class prior to the start of construction. The class taught them how to be responsible homeowners.

They had to put in 40 hours a week throughout the building process in order to remain in the program. If they fell behind in the hours worked, their house was ignored until they caught back up.

While sweat equity took the place of a down payment, they agreed the hard work also taught them a new appreciation of what is involved in building a home.

"A great amount of attention to detail went into this," said Eric Greene, a 20-year-old who applied for the program while still a senior at Kingman High School.

He had a full-time job and after being pressured by his family, he applied. Since being approved, Greene married Cheyenne, another Kingman High graduate, and they are the proud parents of a baby girl.

He said participants had to have a partner and between the two of them they had to put in the hours each week.

Since everyone has a regular job, that meant 10-hour days on Saturdays and Sundays for both of them.

The consensus of the group was that framing was the most difficult and time-consuming phase - but they concede none of it was easy.

Problems with a plumbing subcontractor delayed construction for about three months and other minor issues gave participants a sense of how frustrating it can be trying to keep to a construction schedule.

Still, the end product was worth the wait. To a person, they all say the hard work was worthwhile.

"I learned so much," said Jesse Verdejo. "I could never look at a house the same after building one."

Samantha Engels said she looks at tiled flooring whenever she goes inside someplace for the first time. She notices the smallest of mistakes and she also recognizes expert craftsmanship.

Cheyenne Greene looks at rooflines.

"I drive by and look up and say, "Damn, they need to paint their fascia boards,'" she said. A year ago she wasn't certain what a fascia board was.

They also all agree they would not have learned so much or done so well without Don Howard, who has helped families build 152 homes through Housing America Corporation in Kingman over the past 16 years. Before that, he spent 22 years as a general contractor.

In all, 202 families in Kingman have helped build and then moved into an HAC home since the program's inception 20 years ago.

The platitudes for Howard were plentiful: "Don was very patient," "Don instilled quality," "Don was incredibly understanding," "Don pushed us, but we didn't mind."

"This is in my heart," said Howard. "This is the day I live for. They worked for it all year long. I had the greatest job in the world. I'm able to pass on a trade that's been good to me. You're not just building a home, you're building a neighborhood."

Howard also defended the self-help housing program.

"This isn't a government handout, it's a hand up. These are some of the clichés you learn when you do this job, but they earned it."

While each family's monthly mortgage payments vary based on income, every loan is locked in at 3.5 percent interest.

The program gives very low-, low-, and moderate-income families the opportunity to own their own home, but this could be the last hurrah in Kingman, which no longer fits the definition of a rural community, according to guidelines.

Howard was upset about the situation, putting a blemish on what otherwise was one of the happiest days of the year for him.

"This is the last group," he said, "I think we could do things in Golden Valley. There's such a need here. If (the United States Department of Agriculture - Rural Development) came up with the funding, I'd come back."

Along with the USDA, other partners were the Housing Assistance Council, US Energy Smart Homes, Wells Fargo and the Self-Help Opportunity Program administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The families didn't let Howard walk away without letting him know how much he's loved.

They bought him a humidor for his treasured cigars. Etched on the top are the names of every participant.



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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, April 1, 2013
Article comment by: Storm Hargrave

Congrats to the whole group. It seem like yesterday that we closed escrow, but it's been a whole year. I am so glad I was able to help you with the title/escrow process. Many happy years in your new homes.

Posted: Friday, March 29, 2013
Article comment by: t f

We do u contact to get help with a program like this.

Posted: Friday, March 29, 2013
Article comment by: Samantha Engels

So extremely proud of our group we did work very hard and got an amazing home for our families and created an awesome neighborhood for our kids to grow up in! For the record Mat is my dad and the house is only in my name!

Thanks Team Ram Rod!


Posted: Friday, March 29, 2013
Article comment by: vock canyon

Congrats folks, what a great win for all of you!

Posted: Friday, March 29, 2013
Article comment by: marissa verdejo

We love you, Don! We could never truly express how much we appreciate who you are!!

It is so nice to see everyone moving in, our street is no longer a "construction zone". Our homes are now filled with happiness and pride.

If you see this [Don Howard], don't be a stranger. Stop by and visit us all!


Posted: Friday, March 29, 2013
Article comment by: What a GREAT story

Congratulations to all of them! You should be EXTREMELY PROUD! Much luck to all of you.

Posted: Friday, March 29, 2013
Article comment by: Good Going

Congratulations. I'm sure all of these homes will be well-maintained with tidy yards.

Posted: Friday, March 29, 2013
Article comment by: Team Ram Rod

ATTA GIRL SAM!!! Congrats on the new place.




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