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First home sale could be final before July


March 16, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — The low-income families who have fought for the past eight years to buy the Casas del Sol homes they currently rent heard some good news and some bad news Thursday from the consultant brought in to assist in the home-buying process.

First, the good news: The housing consultant, Ed Goodwin, president of Goodwin and Associates of Atlanta, told a group of Casas residents the first sale of a Casas home could be final before July.

Casas residents applauded and said that when the first sale happens they will throw a party complete with mariachis.

Earlier estimates from the Housing Authority had the first home sold in late summer.

Then came the bad news: The only way the homes will be sold sooner than expected is if the Housing Authority and Casas residents work together.

"The sooner you all pull together the sooner we will get it done," Goodwin said.


Tony Ramirez, president of the Casas del Sol Resident Management Corp., said when the residents hear the word "housing," "Our stomachs hurt."

He and the five-member Casas resident board all said they trust Goodwin but do not trust the Housing Authority.

On Tuesday, a hearing is scheduled during the Calexico City Council meeting to determine if the Housing Authority Commission should be replaced by the council or if individual members of the board should be ousted.

The hearing was set because Casas residents demanded the council take action against the Housing Authority board and Executive Director Lupita Rios for not working with the residents and ignoring their concerns.

Goodwin acknowledged the controversy that has surrounded the efforts to sell the Casas del Sol homes but said he will work to put that in the past.

"All the hard work has been done," Goodwin said, referring to the struggle by the Housing Authority to get the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's approval of the plan to sell the Casas homes.

That plan was conditionally approved Monday when a letter from HUD Director of Public Housing Bob Cook arrived at Mayor Javier Alatorre's office.

Goodwin said he started implementing the plan that same day.

"I get the easy job," Goodwin said. "I get to see people smile when they buy their first home."

Alatorre said at a press conference Thursday he believes the community can work in a constructive way to make things better for the Housing Authority.

"This is a concern that everyone has in the community to make sure the homes get sold quickly," Alatorre said.

At last week's City Council meeting, Alatorre voted against setting a hearing to remove the Housing Authority board of any of its commissioners. He recommended hiring an independent third party to verify the residents' complaints before acting.

On Thursday, Goodwin heard a number of those complaints Casas residents say the Housing Authority has ignored.

He dutifully wrote them down on a legal pad with the help of an interpreter and vowed to the residents he would fix the problems before the houses are sold.

The residents told him about their cement patios cracking away from the houses, sliding doors falling off their hinges, air-conditioning ducts that didn't work in the hottest part of the summer and a toilet that was fixed with improper pipes so it plugs up from "just one sheet of paper."

They also told him that they want any information concerning the plan to sell the homes translated into Spanish.

At last week's Housing Authority meeting, Ramirez and other housing residents accused the authority board and management of not translating important information into Spanish concerning the 5H program because they didn't want Casas residents to know what was going on.

The 5H program is a HUD program designed to allow residents of the Casas del Sol tract homes to purchase the units many have been renting for years. Still, Goodwin said Casas residents are not required to participate in the ownership program.

If they don't want to buy, Goodwin said, they could rent there for the "next 50 years."

Residents of Casas del Sol currently pay rent based on a scale that adds the income of the members of the house and charges them one third of that amount monthly.

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