Serving Families in Need 

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Several generations of homeowners have enjoyed the support of Affordable Homes of South Texas, Inc. (AHSTI). The nonprofit organization seeks to enhance the quality of life with affordable homeownership options and a devoted community of supporters.

“We offer multiple ways to achieve homeownership,” said Myra Martinez, Deputy Executive Director of AHSTI. “We consider ourselves a one-stop solution for anyone who wants to buy a home regardless of income level.”

The organization was founded in 1976 in response to unfavorable living conditions in the Rio Grande Valley. A contemporary citation by the U.S. News & World Report revealed that McAllen, Texas, suffered from Third World living conditions, prompting a call to action from business and community leaders. AHSTI was accordingly established to reduce levels of impoverishment in McAllen, developing a rehabilitation and repair program for local residences. The organization has redefined and expanded its services in the years since. Still, it emphasizes low- to moderate-income families in its core homeownership program.

“There’s a huge amount of our population down here that are still working at a wage level that makes homeownership challenging,” Martinez said. “Our role is to look at each applicant’s situation, see what obstacles they have, and work with them to put them on an action plan.”

The organization remains based in McAllen and with a second branch in Weslaco. Its services include house sales, home building and improvement, lending, homebuyer education, financial counseling, and home maintenance and repair classes. At the core of its business is the construction and development of houses, which involves a multistep journey toward homeownership. AHSTI first determines its customers’ eligibility and then seeks to equip them with the necessary tools to achieve homeowner status.

Customers can begin this process by creating an online profile with AHSTI. A six-question survey determines future steps in the process, with some customers acquiring prequalification as their first step and others being referred to financial classes and counselors. AHSTI is also a counseling agency approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, allowing customers to benefit from pre-purchase counseling services free of charge.

“We love to promote our homebuyer education class,” Martinez said. “It’s an overwhelming experience to buy a home, and this class answers a lot of questions and clears up a lot of anxiety for potential homeowners.”

The home-buying process includes multiple paths based on customer needs and financing options. Still, AHSTI works to ensure that each potential homeowner has the opportunity to reach their goal. The organization works closely with families to verify program eligibility based on area median income while facilitating contract signing, loan application, material selection, home construction, and closing. In addition, AHSTI also helps higher-income customers through its mortgage brokerage service.

“We’re really all about the journey,” Martinez said. “We’re embarking on this celebration of accomplishment and chronicling the whole journey home from the beginning to the end. Our customers can always remember the moment that they made their dream come true.”

The company’s streamlined approach to homeownership has appealed to a wide range of customers. Families can approach AHSTI as the single solution to all their home-related concerns and, in turn, avoid relying on multiple businesses.

“We finance the homes, we build the homes, and we close on them in-house,” Martinez said. “Then we service the loan, so you make your payments with us. You stay within the family until you pay it off.”

The organization’s culture is consequently one of loyalty and communal support. The company’s services have benefited multiple generations of customers, with a recent applicant representing a third-generation AHSTI homebuyer. The clientele also includes a high volume of single parents, allowing the collective staff at AHSTI to embrace their role as a surrogate family. Martinez recounts that several closings have had inspirational stories behind them, noting that some homeowners have been denied mortgages multiple times before finally building their homes with AHSTI.

“We’re trying to bring back the emotion of buying a home,” Martinez said. “We celebrate the accomplishment of the dream with the customer at closing. It’s about connecting as much as possible with them.”

For more information about Affordable Homes of South Texas, Inc., visit ahsti.org.

Bill Hill