McALLEN It began 35 years ago as a dream to get rid of outhouses inside the City of McAllen. Today it's providing homes to hundreds of families all across the region and there is no end in sight.

No end in sight because Affordable Homes of South Texas, Incorporated has just broken ground on a new 10,000-square-foot facility in McAllen. It will be a Home Ownership Center, a place where reliable low-income people will be able to go to buy a house and to learn how to maintain and keep their home.

About 1,300 square feet of the new building will be used as a home education center. New home buyers will be able to attend classes on how to keep up a home and how to set aside the needed funds to make their monthly payments. Affordable Homes has been teaching these classes for years in their smaller headquarters. The classes have worked. During these recent hard economic times their foreclosure rates have changed only slightly.

It was just about 35 years ago when the City of McAllen decided that it would be best for health and sanitation to do away with the few existing outhouses that still were in use in the community. The plan was to see about adding full use restrooms inside the homes on the property where outhouses were found.

It was discovered that a home with an active use outhouse was most likely a low-income home. So, McAllen Housing Services was created to fix the outhouse problem and to refurbish existing homes of elderly citizens. Later McAllen Housing Services became McAllen Affordable Homes.

Even later, McAllen Affordable Homes started developing full subdivisions for low-income clients. These subdivisions were different from what some might have expected. The neighborhoods are beautiful, well kept and the proud possessions of the reliable families who live there. Most people can drive through any one of these subdivisions and wonder where to find the low-income housing.

The key is quality clients. Good, honest, reliable and hard working people are all around us. We pass by them everyday. Affordable Homes has discovered a system where these hard working, reliable people can be found. These people are the quality clients.

Affordable Homes builds about 100 homes year. It is estimated that about 3,400 families have been helped into a home of their home in the 35 year existence of the agency's history. Every new home today is certified Energy Star and is RGV Green Built and yes, they still rehab and repair homes for elderly citizens.

The new main office for Affordable Homes of South Texas, Inc. will be at the corner of S. 15th and Erie, across the street from their old, smaller building. It should be ready for business by September of 2012. What's next? Well, the outhouses are long gone. However, the need for quality, low income housing remains...and so does Affordable Homes of South Texas. There is no end in sight.