Homeownership is still the American Dream.
Updated: Jun 2
Yellow. The color of a banana but in my case it was the color of my family’s station wagon back in 1979. I remember that station wagon for many reasons but the most important one is the role it played in a very important milestone in our family.
I grew up in a family of five in Harlingen, TX. My parents, my sister and brother, and me. I was the youngest. We lived with my grandma and my uncle during the 70’s in a 2-bedroom house. My uncle and parents slept in the bedrooms and my grandma would sleep with the children in the area that led out to the back door (not really a room but bigger than a hallway). She and my brother would sleep on a mattress on the floor while my sister would sleep on another mattress. Meanwhile I took full advantage of the benefits from being the youngest, as I would rotate between sleeping with my sister and my parents.
Traveling north from farm to farm picking the crops that were in season became challenging for a growing family and so my parents had stopped being migrant farmworkers around 1965 so we could have stability in our lives. My father found a job installing fences and my mom was a stay-at-home mom, which in my opinion is one of the hardest jobs. For many years, we lived like this with my grandma and uncle.
In my young mind, I thought it was normal. Then one day, my father came home with a smile on his face telling us to get ready because we were going somewhere. Immediately, I thought we were going to get ice cream because at 6 years old, there is little else on the mind.
We all got ready and piled into the banana yellow station wagon. I loved riding in that wagon. As we drove off, I looked out the window expecting to see the familiar landmarks to confirm that we were heading to get ice cream. However, where we usually would turn right, we took a left.
I asked my father, “Where are we going, Daddy?” and he just looked at me through the review mirror and said, “Be patient. You’ll see.” As I looked back out the window, I noticed we were going through a road that was not our usual way to get to places. I saw more and more fields of corn and cotton the further we traveled away from my grandma’s house.
Soon we started slowing down and crossed over a set of railroad tracks. I started seeing some houses scattered around and as we turned down another street, I started thinking that we were going to visit someone and that maybe we would get ice cream afterwards.
After turning down another street, we turned into a dirt driveway. There was no fence, just dirt, and a house right in the middle. The house was on blocks. My sister and brother were excited and smiling but I had no idea why. Maybe they knew these people had ice cream.
As we got out of the station wagon, I asked my father, “Daddy, who are we visiting? I haven’t been here before.” My father picked me up and held me in his arms, looking at the house. He replied, “We aren’t visiting anybody. This is our new home.”
My sister and brother started yelling and laughing. I laughed too at the time, but I did not really know what was going on. I just knew that everyone was happy which made me happy. We went inside and began running through the house looking at the rooms.
The house itself was not a big home but it sat on three quarters of an acre. My father paid around $6500 for a 500 sq. ft. home, no air conditioning, and unpainted walls. It was a frame home with three small bedrooms and one bathroom. The kitchen was so small that only one person could cook at a time. There was no other house around us except one with a ton of goats at the corner of the road. Yes, it was small but it was ours.
We decided to spend the night in our new home that night. No electricity and no beds to sleep on. My mom had brought blankets and sheets with her. She laid those out on the floor, and that is where we slept for the very first time in our brand new home. We had so much fun that night telling stories and playing games by candlelight. I even forgot all about the ice cream.
In the next few days as we were moving everything over, I remember being sad because I realized that us moving into a new home meant leaving my grandma. Luckily, several years later my father and his siblings bought her a mobile home and placed it on our property behind our house. She lived in her mobile home until her health began deteriorating around 1994. She moved to Houston so my aunts could take care of her and she remained there until her death in 1995.
I did not realize the impact that moment in my life would have on me until much later when someone asked me why I do what I do for a living. The first thing I recalled was our yellow station wagon and the drive to see our new home. Immediately I knew the answer. I wanted to help other children experience the same feeling that I did, to help provide families with challenging circumstances an opportunity to have that first home experience.
As we recognize National Homeownership Month this June, let us remember that Homeownership is still the American Dream but let us also be mindful of the realities. Owning a home has become more difficult to achieve for middle to low income families without some type of purchasing assistance.
There are countless stories of families today that are not able to buy a home because a person working 40 hours at minimum wage cannot afford it. Two working parent households face a similar situation as most of the second income pays for daycare so that they both can work.
With the cost of land and building materials rising, for over 75% of the population, homeownership is fast becoming an American Illusion instead of an American Dream but that does not have to be the case.
That is why I am so proud to work at Affordable Homes of South Texas, Inc. where we provide opportunities and guidance to put families on the path to homeownership. I encourage you to start that path today by creating a profile at www.ahsti.org or calling us at 687-6263. It may not be as out of reach as you think.
I could not imagine what my life would have been or where I would be if my parents were not able to achieve their dream of homeownership. Seeing them accomplish that goal gave my siblings and me the motivation and validation that we could do it as well. Now, all three of us are homeowners and have been for over 20 years.
Homeownership is a stability and permanence that provides a sense of peace knowing that there will not be any more moving from apartment to apartment, a sense of relief knowing that seven people will no longer have to share a two-bedroom home, and a sense of accomplishment that says, “I did it. I own this house.”