HARLINGEN — Owning a home isn’t an impossible dream

Some of those homeowners and the housing officials who helped make it happen met Thursday at the Habitat for Humanity for the Rio Grande Valley store in Harlingen to celebrate the 20th year of the state Bootstrap Program.

Bootstrap provides loans to purchase or refinance property on which to improve existing or construct new residential housing, and requires the borrower provide at least 65 percent of the labor necessary to build or rehabilitate the proposed housing or its equivalent.

To date, Bootstrap has provided more than $61 million in home loans to eligible households, and accounted for 1,854 rehabilitated or reconstructed homes across Texas.

“I’m here to say that Habitat for Humanity was a life-changing experience for me and my family,” said Irma Dominguez of Raymondville, who used the Bootstrap program through Habitat for Humanity for her house in Raymondville.

“It’s something that I have never thought would be possible,” she added. “Now that I have a home of our own, I’m able to provide a stable and safe environment for my family. I’m thankful for this wonderful blessing and I hope that others, like myself, get the opportunity to own a home of their own someday.”

Habitat in the Rio Grande region is a partner in the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs’ Bootstrap Loan Program, a nonprofit owner-builder housing provider in Hidalgo, Cameron, Starr and Willacy counties.

Leslie Bingham-Escareno is vice chair of the TDHCA board and has long been a part of the Bootstrap project.

“It’s amazing to think that we’ve provided more than $61 million in loans to help these families achieve home ownership,” she said. “We appreciate all of the work that goes into administrating this program and our local partnerships are very important to us too, and we’re glad you’re here.”

The Bootstrap Program legislation, Senate Bill 1287, was authored by state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. (D-Brownsville) who then pushed for its passage.

Lucio talked about his personal experience growing up where landlords were often reluctant to rent to a family like his with 10 children. He said for a two-and-a-half year period his family lived in a colonia which was the best housing they could find.

“I remember those days and we were pleased and we were happy to have a home to come to, to unite in and to grow in,” he said. “As soon as my dad found a little old home out in West Brownsville, we moved out so other folks that were even needier than we were could have those homes. To me housing is everything.”

The average Bootstrap loan amount to buy a home is about $45,000, and the typical payment in the program is $125 per month on a 30-year mortgage at no interest.

Sergio Garcia is a member of the RGV Habitat board, and about half of Habitat’s home construction is funded through Bootstrap, he said. These homes benefit more than just the owner.

“As an economist the research is really clear on home ownership,” he said. “Children of individuals who are homeowners are more likely to finish school, more likely to go on to college, and more likely to be homeowners themselves.

“We know that when we are able to use Bootstrap as a program, we’re not just changing that one family or that one building or that one home, we’re changing the community through example and we are changing multiple generations through example, and we are changing those communities multi-generationally through example,” he added.