Jul 29, 2014 9:17 PM by Lauren Reimer

Two dozen Pima Co. families say they were cheated out of new homes

PIMA COUNTY - Back in 2003, 23 families wanted to build homes with help from a USDA loan, 11 of them on the vacant property on the corner of Irvington and Sunset Blvd. in Pima County.

But that help never came through, and homes were never built.

Cesar Gastellum was about to become a father when he applied with the United Housing and Educational Development Corporation, a 'build-it yourself' affordable housing program.

"I wanted to have everything ready for her trying to give her something different than what I had, because you always try to make it better," he said.

His 'baby' is now 14 years old. She's still waiting for a room of her own dreaming of what it could look like.

"I've seen rooms, like on the internet, I'll see rooms 'Oh that'd be nice to have,'" said Cesar's daughter Emily.

Gastellum and the other families say they were promised the loan from the USDA to help pay for their new home, but because of an unauthorized agreement with a contractor, several thousand dollars meant to be used on construction went missing.

"When this was discovered, it was protested, the contractor never completed the work, things sort of devolved into a lot of mutual finger pointing," explained Attorney Christopher Rieck.

The project was put on hold. No one knew it would be indefinite.

While they waited, the Gastellums moved around a lot, living with family, now in a trailer, their credit tied up in a project that may never happen.

"It's kind of sad to see that even if we do get something, she didn't grow up the way I wanted. She kind of grew up a little bit worse than I, I guess," said Gastellum.

The group is now calling on local politicians, like Congressman Raul Grijalva, to help out. His office says it cannot comment while the matter is still in court, so does the USDA.

Since then the land has been sitting empty, families still holding on to hope that they may one day have a chance to build here.


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