EDCOUCH In a rare instance where the words "cutting edge" combine with "affordable low income" homes for residents, housing advocate Proyecto Azteca will begin construction on the first silver LEED neighborhood in South Texas.

Coinciding with the non-profit's 20th anniversary, in which the group has attempted to provide adequate and affordable housing to colonia residents and migrant workers, Proyecto Azteca officially broke ground on the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) subdivision Friday in Edcouch.

Utilizing funding from Rural Housing and Economic Development, USDA 523, HOME and NSP funding through Hidalgo County Urban County, FHLB, and private funds from F. B Heron and Marguerite Casey Foundation, approximately 32 families will have their homes located in the neighborhood.

The neighborhood in Edcouch will be a sustainable neighborhood with hike and bike trails, a community center and park, single family homes for diverse families and families of mixed income.

"This is a turning point for our program. We are not about building houses, but homes. Not just homes, but neighborhoods. Not just neighborhoods, but relationships, all the time building hope," said Proyecto executive director, Ann Williams Cass. "The diversity of families and incomes and new construction techniques will no doubt be challenging for us but we will then have a neighborhood that will be healthy and friendly. "

The houses for the families will not be donated. As per the mission statement of the organization, the plan is a self-help model in which Proyecto requires that families put 550 working hours, which it dubs "sweat equity" into building their homes. They will also be required to take classes on sustainable living, financial education, home repair, organic gardening, budgeting and building skills as part of the deal.

Proyecto Azteca finances the construction of the homes, and services the zero interest mortgage in-house, according to group leaders.

"We look forward to single parent families, two parent families, families with disabilities and special needs, and veterans living here,"said Saul Villarreal, Assistant Executive Director. "t will be a diverse neighborhood."

The homes will be LEED certified and built to withstand hurricanes, tornadoes, and wild fires. They will be constructed with ICF (insulated concrete forms), metal roofs, rainwater harvesting, foam insulation, energy star appliances and meet visitability standards.