Vecinos Dignos Sin Fronteras (Worthy Neighbors Without Borders) is an innovative Mexican community for “displaced” families which consists of 42 residences, housing approximately 160 people. Situated on 3.5 acres donated by the City of Agua Prieta, this pedestrian friendly neighborhood is a model for the future. It includes underground utilities, 5 interior parks and a lighted basketball/volleyball court. The community has wireless internet service and an on-site computer learning center is operating at full capacity. In addition, a 10,000 square foot regional Child Care Facility cares for approximately 165 infants and children and offers employment to many of the mothers residing in the Vecinos neighborhood. The community also features the Education & Recreation Center and an on-site central park or “zócalo”.
The Vecinos Dignos Sin Fronteras subdivision occupies 3.5 acres (1.4 hectares). This land was originally owned by the Ejido Agua Prieta. An Ejido is similar in structure to an American Indian Reservation and the ability of the Ejidos to sell or donate their land is a relatively recent event. The demand to convert Ejido land to private land is high and it wasn’t until July of 2008 that the transfer of title was officially completed. The Vecinos land and its improvements are now owned by the Vecinos Dignos Sin Fronteras, Asociación Civil (“Vecinos, A.C.”). The Vecinos, A.C. is a registered Mexican charitable organization. Rancho Feliz has the controlling interest in the Vecinos, A.C. and can therefore designated the land use and all revenues generated thereon.
Each 700 square foot home includes vaulted ceilings, a 2-bedroom 1-bath floor plan, and a 173 square foot patio. Kitchen appliances are included. Other inexpensive but progressive design features give the residents a sense of pride. This pride of ownership carries over into the upkeep and maintenance of the property and the resident’s self-esteem.
It is important to note that Vecinos is not a welfare program. These attractive homes are not free. Residency requirements and affordable monthly payments allow Vecinos residents to maintain their dignity with the knowledge that they are contributing to the housing and care of their own families. Each family is required to give back by volunteering 250 hours of service annually to the community and their school aged children must be enrolled in school and attend after school educational programs. Currently, 62 of the Vecinos children attend the Colegio Americano Anais, a private bi-lingual school in Agua Prieta under scholarships provided by Rancho Feliz. Other requirements of the residents include property maintenance and community upkeep, and attending parenting, cooking, hygiene and adult education classes for GED equivalency.
A non-political, non-denominational committee was established to select worthy families for residency. Family selection was an in-depth and time consuming process as approximately 700 applications were submitted for each available home.
The average cost to construct a duplex-style home was $21,000 ($30/square foot). To accelerate funding, the Scottsdale-based Armstrong Family Foundation issued a Matching Funds Challenge Grant. Under this scenario the Armstrong Family Foundation funded 15 homes which greatly encouraged the funding of the balance of the homes.
Donations to Date
Rancho Feliz has invested over $2 million in donations into the construction of the Vecinos community as follows: $877,920 for 42 homes, $565,000 for the Child Care Facility, $320,000 for the Rancho Feliz Learning Center and $400,067 for community infrastructure.
Rancho Feliz’s long term goal for the Vecinos community will be to subdivide the residential property so that each family receives a deed and the opportunity to purchase its own home. Rancho Feliz will offer no interest loans and a portion of each rental payment made to date will apply towards the purchase. Rancho Feliz encouraged the formation of a Vecinos Home Owners Association and in this way the residents can direct the management, operation and destiny of their own neighborhood and their own lives.
The development of this novel community is managed by Scottsdale volunteer, Irene Carroll.