50 YEARS. 50 STORIES.

Many Great Moments in PSHH History

Since our founding in 1970, we have certainly changed as an organization, both in scope and scale, but what has remained constant during the five decades represented in this book, is the core of our mission – to provide affordable housing and supportive services to our residents.

Our story began in support of those wanting to pursue the dream of home ownership. Through their sweat and commitment, over 5,000 people found a place to begin a new chapter in their own story. With our move into the development of affordable rental housing, compassionate property management and site-based services, even more people could chronicle their own achievements. Since that first group of future homeowners dug their first trench, hit their first nails and sheeted their first roofs, more and more people have been able to call People’s Self-Help Housing, home.

We hope you will join us in reminiscing and reflecting on half a century of building stronger communities across the Central Coast.  #50Years50Stories

1970 | 1980 | 1990 | 2000 | 2010

1970 | The Journey Begins

In 1970, a visionary group of community leaders joined together in concern about the lack of affordable housing for low-income and special needs households on the Central Coast of California.

Learning about a federally-sponsored program available to nonprofit sponsors to finance the construction of owner built, low-income housing, they resolved to form an organization for the purpose of helping owner-builders construct homes through the “self-help” method.

As Co-Founder and pioneer, Jeanette Duncan laid a solid foundation for success and guided People’s Self-Help Housing as Executive Director and President & CEO for over 40 years.

1971 | The Gift that Kept on Giving

Villa La Esperanza was originally constructed by The Towbes Group in 1971 and subsequently owned and operated by the Goleta Valley Housing Committee (GVHC).

When after many years of faithful service to the community, and with the property needing major renovations, GVHC looked for an organization that would carry on their mission-minded work, PSHH became the enormously grateful beneficiary of that forward thinking decision.

The 83 units at Villa La Esperanza were then not only extensively rehabilitated, but through the re-financing and re-syndication process this asset also leveraged over $20M of additional development investment throughout the region. An incredible gift from GVHC making it a legacy that keeps on giving.

1972 | Breaking Ground

After all the documents were signed, deals done, and funding assembled, it was with great excitement that in 1972 the shovels finally went into the ground to dig the foundations for the very first “self-help” home. Unfortunately the names of those pioneer builders were not recorded, but it is on their shoulders that every subsequent beam or truss has been hoisted.

Things have certainly changed since those days (the image below not showing any safety glasses, work gloves, or a single hard hat!) but what has remained constant is the heart, effort, and commitment of every team that has built in the ensuing fifty years.

1973 | First Self-Help Homes Completed

1973 saw the first self-help homes completed in Los Osos. These were constructed in Phase 1 of the El Montecito neighborhood named for the closest of the Nine Sisters, a chain of volcanic peaks and hills running between San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay.

Although the Kodachrome photos and records from this period do not reveal much detail about this particular group of owner-builders, it is believed that one family is still living in their home today – 47 years later!

1974 | San Miguel Community Sees Expansion

In 1974, the first phase of the San Miguel subdivision was completed. Set among a mix of ranch land, vineyards, and almond orchards, and just a little under two square miles in area, San Miguel continues to be a wonderful place for those building towards home ownership to invest in their real estate future.

Currently, the multiple neighborhoods built in this community have seen 120 homes completed, with more in the pipeline.

1975 | PSHH Makes the Mark

Used for the first time in the early 1970s, the PSHH logo – designed by graphic artist Linda Farbstein from local company Tintype – visually captured our self-help origins.

Depicting neighbor helping neighbor, together two people building a house, the perspective gives the effect of two houses – the forming of a community.

In 2017, the logo received a fresh new look and become the version you see today. Registered with the US Patent & Trademark office, the distinctive red logo echoes our beginnings, resonates with our work today and looks to all the possibilities of the future.

1976 | A Digital Year

In 1976, Apple launched the first personal computers, changing the way the world did business.

Beginning an organizational tradition of early adoption of new technology, soon after this watershed moment, PSHH transitioned from working on typewriters to incorporating computers into the workflow of the office.

PSHH records from the period printed by ‘daisy wheels’ show the average cost of a single family home as $40,000, local rent for a similar property at just over $200 a month, but with medium area income at just $13,000 a year.

1977 | Montecito Verde I

In 1977 Jimmy Carter was sworn into office, Star Wars took theaters by storm, and NASA launched its first test flight of the space shuttle.

For People’s Self-Help Housing, the year marked the completion of Montecito Verde I, in Nipomo, which with financial assistance from USDA Rural Development, was at the time PSHH’s largest development comprised of 49 homes for growing families.

These homes sold for between $19,980 – $24,170, a wonderful investment for those households who financed their down payment through their sweat and commitment over many months of hard work.

1978 | El Montecito #2 Crosses the Finish Line

Five years after the first homes were completed in the Baywood Park community, in 1978 the second development in the El Montecito subdivision broke ground. From start to finish of all three phases, although not the largest self-help project, El Montecito took over eight years to complete, making it one of the longest-spanning homeownership developments.

The last home, for a total of 24 in all, completed the ocean view development, and remains one of the most picturesquely situated in the PSHH portfolio.

1979 | 100th Self-Help Home!

For fifty years, self-help housing has been a major sustained heartbeat of our organization. Over the decades this program has seen many milestones, including the 100th owner-built home, which was completed in Guadalupe.

Guadalupe I was our first self-help build in Santa Barbara County and this beautiful, new tract gave 34 families the gift of a safe, welcoming place to call home.

With many of these homes still being lived in by their original builders, they have not only been a gift to those who invested their effort, but to the City of Guadalupe as a whole.

1980 | Affordable Housing Hits Hard Times

The 1980’s saw a contraction in available funding for affordable housing, with the budget for public housing and Section 8 vouchers halved to $17.5 billion.

Paired with a dramatic cut in domestic spending, it made for challenging budgets for both builders and low income families in desperate need of decent housing.

Throughout these times PSHH remained resilient, still able to complete the Guadalupe I development as planned.

1981 | Building with a Mission

When People’s Self-Help Housing set out to build a new tract of single-family homes in Shandon, it only had a population of several hundred. Located about 20 miles east of Paso Robles, Shandon experiences very hot dry summers presenting some heat challenges during the year-long build.

Financed with the assistance of USDA Rural Development funds, the owner-builders completed eight Mission Style homes. Although this made it one of the smallest projects in our history, it was no less life changing for the families who began a new chapter alongside the San Juan Creek.

1982 | Biggest Build

1982 saw the development of the Tanglewood subdivision, just outside of Santa Maria. This beautiful area with coastal and agricultural views was an immediate hit with eager to build applicants for the “self help” program.

More than 80 homes were built simultaneously, and this became our largest owner-builder development in construction and completed within a single year.

1983 | Section 8 Voucher Program Begins

The recession of the early 1980s had severe consequences for working families. Over 15 percent of Americans were living below the poverty line, even though half lived in households with at least one working person.

To alleviate the growing number of homeless individuals and families, in 1983, the Housing and Urban-Rural Recovery Act introduced the Section 8 voucher program, which allowed for both tenant and project-based rental subsidies.

1984 | PSHH Receives Beautification Honor

In May of 1984, the Beautification Month Committee of Grover Beach, Arroyo Grande, and Pismo Beach chambers of commerce, devoted the entire month to encouraging residents to “clean up, fix up, paint up, and green up”.

The committee recognized PSHH for their dedication to neighborhood improvement, calling them “an outstanding contributor to greater community beautification.” Through this program, the organization was able to help local low-income residents with much-needed repairs and renovations, and by providing homeowners with the funds, tools, and guidance to get the job done.

1985 | Dirty Boots Lead to 40 Years of Board Service

Dr. Dieter Eckert first learned about People’s Self-Help Housing in the early 1970s while working as a radiologist serving low-income farmworkers and uninsured individuals.
One afternoon, a fellow employee walked in wearing cement-covered boots which were later revealed to be a result of the home she was building in Los Osos through a program called “self-help.”

A few months later, after a chance encounter with then Executive Director Jeanette Duncan, Dr. Eckert shared the story and his respect for the program. What followed was 40 years and counting of dedicated PSHH board service.

Recalling early days, he remembers seeing the beaming faces of residents who until recently had been sleeping in cars. Believing affordable housing to be a basic human need, he says it’s one for which there is a moral imperative to address.

1986 | Low-Growth & LIHTC

Created under the Tax Reform Act of 1986, the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program allows for a dollar-for-dollar tax credit when private equity is invested in the development of affordable housing.

Entities owing taxes to the federal government can discharge that liability through state housing authorities and other allocating agencies, who are given annual authority to issue a certain amount of tax credits for the acquisition, rehabilitation, or new construction of rental housing for lower-income households.

In one of those rare ‘win, win, win,’ situations, the affordable housing developer gets the capital, the investor discharges their tax obligation, and the community gets more housing so low income renters can live more affordably.

1987 | Guadalupe III & IV

Seven years after the first PSHH shovel turned ground in Guadalupe, in 1987 the organization built an additional 51 self-help homes through Guadalupe III & IV. Although not the last self-help homes in the city, they paved the way for one of the largest rental developments in the PSHH portfolio, River View Townhomes.

For its size, just over 7,500 people at the last census, Guadalupe hosts one of the largest inventory of PSHH homes in the region. Along with the four tracts of owner-built housing, River View Townhomes was joined in 2020 by Guadalupe Court, specially developed for agricultural workers.

1988 | First Project with First Nations

In 1988, on the Bethel Ranch a few miles east of Santa Margarita, People’s Self-Help Housing began a singular project working with an inter-tribal group, which included members from the Chumash Owl Clan.

The seven units of permanent housing were built on Redwind Foundation land, which had gained some local attention when a benefit concert to pay for the property was held at Cuesta College in an old Quonset hut. For just five dollars, lucky music fans had watched as Neil Young opened for The Eagles.

Subsequent funds for the construction of the housing came from more traditional sources, the US Department of Agriculture for Rural Development and from the County of San Luis Obispo through the Community Development Block Grant program.

1989 | Ground Broken on Ocean View Manor

With home prices and living costs soaring in the coastal community of Morro Bay, People’s Self-Help Housing sought to ease the burden with the construction of a new 40-unit garden apartment complex for seniors and for those living with disabilities.

Thanks in part to a grant from the California State Coastal Conservancy, Ocean View Manor welcomed residents, who otherwise would have been forced to move away from family or friends. With accessible, service-enriched housing and attractive surroundings, Ocean View Manor continues to connect today’s residents to essential health and social resources.

1990 | Valentine Court Has Heart for Residents

In 1990, Valentine Court in Santa Maria opened for seniors and those living with disabilities.

With beautiful housing for people to live full and independent lives, the development was the first in the PSHH portfolio specially designed to allow working residents opportunities to continue pursuing their careers, and for others to enjoy a peaceful retirement.

Service animals were equally welcomed to enjoy the accessible surroundings which make living for all Valentine Court residents just a little easier.

1991 | Pacific View In Morro Bay Completes Rehab

At PSHH, we look to build communities, not just units of housing. So in 1991, after acquiring the Pacific View Apartments in Morro Bay, we ensured that the much-needed and extensive renovations would contribute to a friendly and close-knit development.

So effective was the end result, that neighborly interaction has always been apparent at this property. In later years when we were looking to install a ‘little library’, Pacific View was the obvious choice. Designed and built by a dedicated social worker intern, and beautified by one of the residents, the final project was so successful that even with the spectacular views of the sweeping coastline and the iconic Morro Rock to compete, it immediately caught the attention of all the eager readers!

1992 | PSHH Earns Helen Putnam Award of Excellence

1992 marked the completion of Oak Valley Homes in Santa Maria, one of PSHH’s largest self-help housing developments. This well-situated subdivision, gave the gift of housing stability to 70 area households.

Oak Valley garnered the League of California Cities’ prestigious Helen Putnam Award of Excellence for the City of Santa Maria for innovation and achievement in affordable housing development.

1993 | Finding Funding – No Small Task

In 1993, Henry G. Cisneros was named the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by President Clinton. HUD funding is a necessary and vital part of financing the construction of affordable housing, but navigating the NOFA’s and securing the alphabet soup of resources requires a team of expert and diligent professionals.

Since the early nineties, both the Construction and Multifamily Housing Department teams have been made up of specialized site superintendents, project managers, urban planners, and realtors and have headed up the quest for financing the acquisition, design, construction and rehabilitation of PSHH housing. No simple task with millions of highly competitive dollars at stake and every year with thousands of families relying on their efforts.

1994 | The People of People’s

In 1994, PSHH established its own Human Resources department and was managed by Monica DeMalleville. Clearly the early investment in seeking out the very best employees paid off for the organization, as some of those early hires are now only just retiring. Mark Wilson (28 years) established the Multifamily Housing Department, and Juliet Mendoza (28 years) has been the very foundation of our fiscal activities. Phil McClintock (29 years) has been lending his construction knowledge and experience to generations of owner-builders, and by recent estimates has built alongside over 600 households.

Both Annette Schlosser and Sheryl Flores have been serving our mission whole-heartedly since joining the organization in 1996, and show no signs of slowing up, so what is the secret? Perhaps Monica can share that with us before she leaves, just a few days shy of 30 amazing years!

1995 | Silver Anniversary Honored by Congresswoman Capps

When the Honorable Lois Capps stood before the United States Congress and paid tribute to PSHH for 25 years of sustained excellence, she did so as a longtime advocate and friend of People’s Self-Help Housing

Congresswoman Capps was often seen at construction site visits and dedication events sharing words of gratitude and encouragement, and even on some occasions donning a hard hat and wielding a shovel. As she read her accolade into the congressional record, she honored our organization with this very much appreciated Silver Anniversary gift.

1996 | A Credit to Senior Living

Providing homes for seniors to enjoy a full and rewarding retirement has always been a cornerstone of our building philosophy. In 1996, both Cawelti Court in Arroyo Grande and Oceanside Gardens in Morro Bay were completed using, for the very first time in PSHH History, the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program as a source of funding, which subsidizes the acquisition, construction, and rehabilitation of affordable rental housing for low- and moderate-income residents.

Since their original completion, both have continued to serve as havens of stability for our cherished seniors and comfort for their friends and families who know they are living enriched and independent lives.

1997 | Craftsman Details and Shady Oaks

Built with craftsman detailing to fit the character of the historical Arroyo Grande neighborhood, Oak Forest Apartments opened its 20 townhouses on May 14, 1997.

The original property, which had an existing one bedroom vintage home and magnificent oak trees, had been bought in 1994 with help from a City of Arroyo Grande CDBG grant. The house was subsequently removed and salvaged and the mature trees, for which the community had great affection, were preserved and designed into the site plan. The natural beauty and shade of the oak trees continue to anchor the landscaped courts between the homes, playground, and common building, providing one of the most bucolic settings in the PSHH portfolio.

1998 | Fannie Mae Honors PSHH with National Award

In 1998, People’s Self-Help Housing received national recognition and a $25,000 award from the Fannie Mae Foundation. Based in Washington DC, this foundation provided funding opportunities for organizations working on housing and community development, eliminating homelessness, and building thriving neighborhoods.

This funding was the catalyst for the creation of the Sustained Excellence Alliance Corporation, consisting of the 10 award-winning organizations across the nation. Known as SEA Corp., this alliance (still in existence today, although with slightly different membership), continues to exchange best practices, benefit from peer to peer learning, and meet regularly to address the ever present challenges of affordable housing.

1999 | Victoria Hotel & The Legacy of Mr. Lee

In the late 1990s, the City of Santa Barbara approached People’s Self-Help Housing to purchase and rehabilitate the historic Victoria Hotel.

After assuming ownership in 1999 and taking on the renovation project, the organization also took on the building’s longtime manager, Mr. Sun Chong Lee, a Chinese immigrant who as a young man had made an extraordinary and solitary journey to America. During the rehab construction, Mr. Lee provided valuable input advocating for a community kitchen for shared meals, and to retain the single bedrooms for much appreciated privacy and respite.

Until his retirement, Mr. Lee and his beloved dog Mui were treasured by staff and residents for his dedication and compassion. He adored the American tradition of Thanksgiving, and delighted in providing those who could not afford to celebrate with festive gatherings and lavish holiday spreads. To the sadness of all, Mr. Lee has since passed, but his legacy of hospitality and caring lives on to this day.

2000 | 30th Anniversary at the Bacara

In 2000, to mark our 30th Anniversary, PSHH hosted a gala event at the newly opened Ritz-Carlton Bacara in Santa Barbara. In attendance were partners from throughout the region and across the nation, without whom the work of the previous three decades would not have been possible.

Included in the glittering guest list, as one of the many longtime supporters who had faithfully donated their professional services in support of affordable housing, was A. Hugo Pearson Jr. Acting as both a dedicated board member and our corporate attorney, for many years Hugo had in addition, carried our real estate brokers license.

2001 | First Farmworker Housing Comes to SLO County

By 2001, the coastal farming community of Oceano – one of the region’s biggest producers of strawberries – was beginning to feel the effects of the affordable housing shortage. Before the opening of La Brisa Marina, whose construction began with the demolition of a block of severely dilapidated buildings, workers had been enduring inhospitable and unhealthy conditions.

The new development, which created 16 permanently affordable apartments for farm laborers, ensured access to supportive health services and neighborhood resources for this important workforce. Located close to schools, jobs and commercial areas, La Brisa Marina provides safe, healthy living conditions enriched with on-site supportive programming.

The dedication was presided over by then-California State Assemblymember Katcho Achadjian, who lauded the completion and the impact it would have on preserving the vitality of the community and the local agriculture industry.

2002 | McCune Foundation Funds First Learning Center

Made possible by a visionary gift from the McCune Foundation, PSHH’s first learning center opened its doors at Casas de las Flores (formerly known as the Camper Park) in Carpinteria in 2002.

From that first cohort of 80, students have since gone on to achieve numerous educational and professional accomplishments to include masters degrees from Ivy League schools, and prestigious positions at Fortune 500 companies.

Today, PSHH’s 10 learning centers provide services to over 500 youth a day, and mentor students from kindergarten through post graduate studies.

2003 | Home for the Holidays

This housing project began in 2001 with Ventura Affordable Homes, who launched the Citrus View portion of the development. Soon after, PSHH added five additional phases, bringing Citrus Pointe, consisting of 47 more homes to the neighborhood.

During construction, PSHH hosted one of its first wall-raising ceremonies and invited members of the public to help complete the framing. With the assistance of subcontractors and site supervisors, the ensuing phases were quickly completed. The final group of owner-builders moved into their self-help homes in December of 2003, giving them a place to call their own just in time for the holidays

2004 | Coming Home Again

People’s Self-Help Housing is one big extended family, and just like a traditional family, you can always come home.

When Kehtzia came to work in our Human Resources department at PSHH, it was like welcoming family. Previously as a volunteer at Canyon Creek Learning Center, she had tutored students in English and math, and before that we had gotten to know her really well as she and her family became proud owner-builders in San Miguel’s Cottonwood division.

The gift of that stable housing allowed Kehtzia to do so well in school, she was accepted to Stanislaus State University. It was there she earned her degree in Human Resources, which brought her full circle back ‘home’ again to PSHH.

2005 | Las Historias de Ladera

The original site of Ladera Street Apartments featured a host of problems for its residents: criminal activity, unsafe conditions, and unmaintained facilities. The City of Santa Barbara brought in PSHH to help turn the property around with a comprehensive construction rehab.

In 2005, with a grant from the California Council for the Humanities, PSHH curated stories of first-generation Americans. A powerful compilation of ten stories from the residents of Ladera Street Apartments in Santa Barbara, each testimony is a poignant rendition of lived experience.

Reflecting themes of identity, community, family, and heritage, the stories were first published in 2005 as Las Historias de Ladera, and have since provided an invaluable resource for intergenerational sharings.

2006 | Canyon Creek Grand Opening

In 2006 Canyon Creek opened to serve the community of Paso Robles and set amidst live and Spanish oaks, it has always been a property to encourage outdoor play and healthy activities. Every day, the Learning Center at Canyon Creek supports students K-8 and enriches their regular curriculum with individualized plans, art, music, and ways to make education fun.

Sixty-eight families call this beautiful property home, and it clearly has the youngest of those running and jumping for joy.

2007 | Casas las Granadas Opens in Downtown Santa Barbara

Downtown Santa Barbara welcomed, in 2007, new workforce housing with the completion of Casas las Granadas. A complex of 12 permanently affordable apartments, located close to the city’s commercial district, public library, and major transportation hubs.

The Spanish villa-style apartments complement the aesthetics of the surrounding area and beautify the local cityscape. They are augmented with plantings of native flora and often play host to installations from local artists.

Designed by RRM Design Group, the development received the Gold Nugget Grand Award, the Architectural Award of Merit from the American Institute of Architects, and the Outstanding Neighborhood Planning Award from the American Planning Association.

2008 | Vibrant Living at The Villas

The Villas at Higuera brought more than just housing to the city of San Luis Obispo. Beyond the 28 affordable living units, this project included over 3,000 square feet of commercial space for local businesses to grow and thrive.

The first commercial tenants at this mixed-use space initially included three women-owned companies: a salon, a clothing boutique, and an interior design store. This collaborative hub brought creative energy to the area and showed a new way for PSHH to build community. Completed in 2008, The Villas at Higuera provide supportive housing for formerly-homeless and working households near transportation centers, shopping, and social services.

2009 | Volunteers Make a Difference

In February 2009, more than 40 volunteers gathered to spruce up what was then known as the Carpinteria Camper Park. Members from the “Community of Montecito Churches” (M4) offered up their time to make much-needed improvements to the living conditions at the park.

Volunteers spent three days painting fences and common areas, replacing flooring in the community restrooms and laundry facilities, and conducting other repairs. While in transition from camper park to what became Casas de las Flores, these repairs helped maintain a better quality of life for the camper residents as they awaited permanent, supportive housing.

Partnerships with these local parishes is still strong. All Saints-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church of Santa Barbara, one of the original M4 churches, continues to graciously assist Victoria Hotel residents through twice-weekly dinners, move in kits, and home improvement projects.

2010 | Towbes Named Donor of the Year

In 2010, during the celebrations for our 40th anniversary, PSHH recognized Michael Towbes, a leading philanthropist in Santa Barbara, as ‘Donor of the Year’. As co-founder of Montecito Bank & Trust and the founder of The Towbes Group and the Towbes Foundation, he was a key driving force behind the millions of dollars donated to area nonprofits.

Mr. Towbes served on The Duncan Group Board of Directors from 1997-2017, an affiliate board of PSHH, utilizing his housing-development experience and passion for philanthropy to advance our mission.

Since his passing in 2017, he has left an incredible legacy. As he once said, “If I am going to be remembered for anything, it will hopefully be what I did for the community in terms of serving nonprofits.”

2011 | Homeowners Go Solar

In 2011, thanks to a green partnership, PSHH was able to bring energy-efficient design to five owner-builder households in Nipomo. The families, who worked alongside Grid Alternatives and Cal Poly’s Power and Energy Society installed solar panels on their new homes in anticipation of an estimated $8,000 in energy savings over the units’ 30-year lifespan.

During the installation, owner-builders provided home-cooked meals to the installation team and on completion of the project, marked the occasion with a “Light Up The Block” ceremony. In California, where the sun is often shining, renewable energy from solar power can reduce homeowner expenses by up to 90%. Since the installation, sustainable building has remained a cornerstone of PSHH’s design philosophy, with numerous projects going on to receive LEED and Energy Star certifications.

2012 | Ocean Views for an Affordable Price

Fourteen years after PSHH began a rehab project at the Sea Haven Apartments in Pismo Beach, the doors opened to a second low-income complex, Pismo Creek Bungalows.

This development brought an additional 14 units to the neighborhood, and was the first to feature a public art piece, which was created by Jim Jacobson. At the grand opening, families now able to call Pismo Creek Bungalows home cried joyful tears as they moved from cramped apartments to places with room to thrive.

According to the Santa Maria Times, one grandmother felt as though she “had won a huge lottery”, and was in awe over views of the ocean from her new unit and so grateful for the kitchen that now allowed her to bake for her grandchildren.

2013 | Santa Barbara Stuffs the Bus

Community volunteers, partners, and supporters often help to directly enrich the lives of our residents. In December of 2013, the Santa Barbara community got to see firsthand the impact being made by their donations as they brought smiles and holiday cheer to 500 PSHH children.

Along with Santa Barbara government officials, law enforcement, and executive members from proud sponsors, Santa and Mrs. Claus joined the 6th annual “Stuff the Bus” parade as they picked up toys and gift cards from collection bins around the city.

More than 40 volunteers eagerly awaited the bus’s arrival at our Ladera Street Apartments as they prepared to sort and wrap the toys. Once wrapped, the gifts were delivered to PSHH properties throughout the Santa Barbara area, and all in time for the holidays!

2014 | John Fowler Announced as CEO

After over 40 years of leading People’s Self-Help Housing, co-founder Jeanette Duncan announced her retirement and in 2014 then Executive Vice President John Fowler was selected to continue the important work.

With extensive experience in financing, construction, nonprofit management and fundraising, and with decades of commitment to social justice, John brought the ideal mix of professionalism and philanthropy to the position.

The ensuing six years have seen great changes at PSHH and expansion throughout the entire organization. With a team over 200 staff, nearly 2,000 rental portfolio units and assets valued at over 300 million dollars, under John’s guidance People’s Self-Help Housing has become the regional leader in affordable housing.

2015 | Casas de las Flores Opens in Carpinteria

The Carpinteria Camper Park started out as a vacation destination for families in the 1960s. Over several decades it transitioned into substandard housing for farmworkers. By 2004, poor management of the property had led to trailers beyond repair and high levels of criminal activity and violence. The City of Carpinteria asked People’s Self-Help Housing for help.

After community feedback, PSHH began the extensive process of rebuilding the property with newer trailers, security fencing, and functioning utilities. On-site supportive services offered family counseling, crisis intervention, and advocacy. Community-building events were organized and one of PSHH’s first learning centers was established, beginning as a simple outdoor classroom. At last, in 2015, the camper park was reborn as Casas de las Flores with 43 spacious apartments and approximately 3,500 square feet of community space.

2016 | Resident Leader Receives Dorothy Richardson Award

Elvia Salazar, Resident Leader at Los Adobes de Maria II in Santa Maria, has always been a force of change as a community mobilizer and advocate for her fellow residents and neighbors.

Elvia successfully helped campaign against a district change that would have seen children attend a different campus outside of their neighborhood by rallying parents to organize and share their concerns with the school board.

Elvia inspired PSHH staff and her community so much, that in 2016 she traveled to Ohio to receive national recognition as an awardee of the Dorothy Richardson Award for Resident Leadership!

This accolade is presented by NeighborWorks America to community members who ‘have invested their energies and talents to bring about specific change that positively impacts their neighborhoods and communities’.

2017 | A Legacy of Learning

Education has long been an important component of healthy housing for PSHH residents. A passion for life-long learning by Jeanette Duncan, founder and first CEO of PSHH, ingrained this into our mission and practically realized the philosophy through the opening of our first on-site after-school program in 2002.

Fifteen years and nine additional learning centers later, in December 2017 PSHH honored Jeanette’s visionary leadership by opening the Jeanette Duncan Learning Center at Jardin de las Rosas.

2018 | Becoming One

July 1, 2018 marked a special moment in PSHH history. Two companies became one as our long-time affiliate, The Duncan Group, merged with People’s Self-Help Housing, uniting all under one name.

Since 1996, The Duncan Group had served as the property management agent for PSHH, with both companies working toward the same mission-minded goals.

To celebrate this union, team members gathered at River View Townhomes in Guadalupe for fellowship, inspirational messages from leadership, and a unique art project which saw each person contributing to a glass mosaic – a symbol for the new organization – to adorn the corporate office in San Luis Obispo.

2019 | From College Club to Columbia

Lizbeth Hernandez was a student in the after school program at Los Adobes de Maria in Santa Maria from 5th grade through graduation from high school. Going on to attend Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles, she additionally studied abroad in Spain.

Graduating with a B.S. in Social Work Lizbeth returned to PSHH for a year to serve as the College Club Coordinator helping those following in her footsteps to be accepted to university.

Returning to full time education in 2019, Lizbeth became the first student to complete graduate level studies, receiving her masters degree from Columbia University.

2020 | PSHH Turns 50!

To say our 50th year has not gone quite as planned is an understatement, but neither has it for the rest of the world. The coronavirus has seen us all gloved, masked and staying safely six feet apart, but still serving our residents, supporting students with distance learning, and building new homes with barely missing a beat.

Although the majority of staff have been working from home, and events have been canceled, we have continued to move our mission forward, have expanded into a fourth county, and seen our new corporate office in San Luis Obispo take shape.

As an organization we are both staying true to ourselves and yet changing in creative and innovative ways to meet the moment. This year we sadly said goodbye to staff who have served for decades, prepared for a new CEO, reorganized internal structures, and recognized our need to be more diverse and inclusive.

Despite all the changes and challenges thrown at us, we are navigating this unchartered territory with grit, grace and remain resilient. “Building Together” underscored the importance of a home; our commitment to providing those for as many people as possible, has never been stronger.

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