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A Home of Their Own in Pasadena

Two local families are the latest recipients of San Gabriel Valley Habitat for Humanity’s ‘Expanding the American Dream’ Campaign

Published on Sunday, January 15, 2023 | 5:39 am

Johnny and Nely and their sons. [Photo Habitat for Humanity]
Two Pasadena families are the latest recipients of the San Gabriel Valley Habitat for Humanity’s ‘Expanding the American Dream’ campaign, now moving into its third year. 

Johnny and Nely currently live in a one-bedroom apartment with their three boys. Nely works at Children’s Hospital and is studying nursing. Johnny is also in school, working towards a degree in social work.

During the stay-at-home portion of the pandemic, Johnny was working from home, both older boys were doing school from home along with their two-year-old brother, all in their tiny apartment. This month they will become homeowners as they purchase their 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom Habitat for Humanity home in Pasadena. 

San Gabriel Valley Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Bryan Wong [Photo Habitat for Humanity]
Elizabeth and Rene are also a family of five. They’ve lived in their one-bedroom Pasadena apartment for 21 years. The US Army veteran Pasadena city employee. had been trying to buy a home for several years, like many would-be buyers, have found themselves outbid by cash offers. 

After the crash, the market soared, and the family was  completely shut out. Meanwhile, Rene put in almost 400 hours volunteering with SGV Habitat before he learned  that he and his wife had been selected to purchase one of the houses. 

Recognizing Rene’s hard work, the children call their new home, “the house that Dad built.” 

The first home preservation project of 2023 will also begin next week for a 72-year-old Pasadena homeowner who lives alone and suffers from a variety of ailments including recovering from recent back and shoulder surgery. She lives on a fixed income and is unable to afford conventional means of repairing her home. 

This is only the first of many repairs that will take place throughout the San Gabriel Valley, the organization announced this week.

“With your help, we are not building homes, we are changing lives,” says Bryan Wong, SGV Habitat Executive Director. “Instead of families worrying about rent increases, unsafe living conditions and overcrowding, they get to focus on building a future and enjoy the stability of being a homeowner.”

As Wong noted, the affordable housing crisis has never been worse. The median sales price in LA County is almost $760,000 which would take an annual income of around $200,000 to cover the mortgage. To compound this problem, the median income in the San Gabriel Valley is only $83,000. 

“Our goal is to dramatically increase the number of affordable homeownership opportunities in the San Gabriel Valley,” Wong added. “The need for affordable housing in the area is overwhelming. We aim to make the world a place where all can afford to live—both first-time homebuyers and long-time residents.”

The SGV Habitat for Humanity American Dream campaign is a $28 million investment that will provide home preservation and homeownership to 100 new families across the San Gabriel Valley and abroad, according to a recent statement from the organization. 

The number adds to the nearly 300 families already served by SGV Habitat for Humanity since its founding in 1990. 

More information about the San Gabriel Valley Habitat for Humanity is available at

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