Gerardo Carlos wasn’t sure where to turn until he found help at Primavera Foundation.
Not long after buying a Sonoran Ranch Estates house over a decade ago, Gerardo’s family ran into money problems. He stopped paying neighborhood association fees. In April, he received a letter from the Pima County Sheriff’s Department saying if he didn’t pay the approximately $10,000 he owed, the house would be sold.
Gerardo, 60, who works in apartment maintenance, was referred to an agency in Phoenix. But he is not handy with computers and feared the process would take too long, he said.
In the meantime, he heard of Primavera. He called and met with someone that same day. Primavera’s Oscar Gastelum, a HUD-certified housing counselor and behavioral financial coach, helped Gerardo fill out the online forms. The Arizona Department of Housing approved the grant quickly, paid off Gerardo’s HOA debt, and put him back in good standing.
It’s just a sliver of the work the staff in Primavera’s Home Ownership Program (HOP) do every day.
HOP offers two home ownership classes and two financial capability classes in Spanish and English each month. Participants are also offered three hours of financial empowerment classes every other week at different Primavera locations, HOP Director Celia Mendivil said.
Topics include money management, credit improvement, banking relationships and identity theft.
HOP staff offer financial education classes for children, ages six to 17. After children graduate, Primavera opens a savings account with $65 for each child.
Because the pandemic affected attendance, Celia and her staff are working hard to build classes back up and diversify participants.
In recent years, HOP has tackled challenges such as skyrocketing property values, investors buying up affordable homes, high interest rates and a lack of affordable housing.
Between 2008 and 2015, Primavera ran a neighborhood revitalization project in the City of South Tucson, demolishing several unlivable properties and replacing them with energy-efficient manufactured homes.
All told, Primavera assisted 26 homeowners or homebuyers either purchase a new home, rehab an existing one or demolish a home and rebuild a new one, Celia said. Primavera closed on the last property in 2022.
Gerardo appreciates the help from Primavera.
“It was so fast and surprising,” he said of the help from Oscar. “Believe me, I couldn’t sleep. There was just one month before I was going to lose the house, and I didn’t know what to tell my wife and daughter.”