For many low-income families, living in a home crafted with the love and support of family and friends can seem like a distant dream — however, with help from Community Housing Improvement Program, or CHIP, that dream recently became a reality for 17 families.

CHIP is a nonprofit organization that provides households an opportunity to own a home at rates more affordable than current market prices — typically less than $200,000. The organization offers qualifying families monthly low-cost repayment plans without a down payment.

"Self-help sweat-equity programs like CHIP help people become homeowners that otherwise might not be able to do so," said Desiree Gonzalez, communications specialist at CHIP. "With CHIP's help, families create stable homes for themselves."

On June 28, government officials from the city of Orland, CHIP representatives, and families gathered to celebrate the completion of 17 homes in Orland's new Villa La Michele subdivision — a community designed for families benefiting from CHIP services.

"We welcome the investment and the families to Orland and into the Heartland neighborhood," Orland City Manager Pete Carr said. "We're proud of our partnership with CHIP and the people who built them. I think it's a fabulous opportunity to lower the cost of homes, and a great opportunity to appreciate every aspect of homeownership."

Many families building homes in the subdivision were previously living in apartments and couldn't fathom the idea of owning their own house. Two people receiving a house in the subdivision spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony to express their appreciation for the program.

"I'm very happy that my family is able to live the dream of owning a home and be able to make payments," Rosa Avila De Vargas, a speaker at the groundbreaking ceremony, said. "Any other way would've been impossible."

The subdivision is designed to host up to 38 houses, all of which will belong to families benefiting from CHIP. According to Carr, it was important to both the organization and the city that this housing project feel like a tight-knit community, so the two institutions worked together to install a neighborhood park with playground equipment in the area. However, future community members feel the character of the neighborhood will be shaped by the shared experience of building their homes.

"We've lived in apartments where we didn't have that sense of community," Avila De Vargas said. "Since we get to build with our neighbors, we're going to build stronger relationships because we're helping each other."

Families interested in seeking aid from CHIP can visit its Chico office at 1001 Willow St. or by visiting the website chiphousing.org.

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