Mother Earth Living

Community in the Desert: Tierra Madre Program Builds Sustainable Community

The Tierra Madre program helps low-income families build sustainable homes in New Mexico.
By Marsha Scarbrough
May/June 2003
Add to My MSN

Tierra Madre residents work together to build a straw bale home in New Mexico.
Photos Courtesy Tierra Madre
Slideshow


Content Tools

Related Content

Weed & Water Wednesday: A Favorite Desert Garden

Although winter is setting in, that doesn't mean an end to the garden season in desert climates! Get...

A Worldwide Noah's Ark for Endangered Plants

Tom Newmark won't rest until he's helped establish 10,000 seed sanctuaries—living gardens devoted to...

Alchemy Architects’ weeZero: A Net-Zero weeHouse Near Moab, Utah

Alchemy Architects builds its first weeZero, or net-zero weeHouse, in the desert near Moab, Utah.

Jean Houston: We Were Made for These Times

“Do you sometimes feel like your life is a microfield for everything that’s going on today?” scholar...

When the Sisters of Charity assigned Jean Miller to serve low-income families on the U.S. side of the Mexico border, the nun identified affordable housing as their greatest need. She envisioned sustainable communities that combined owner-built housing with care for the environment.

In May 1995, she and Franciscan Sister Joan Brown founded a unique housing project called Tierra Madre (“Earth Mother” in Spanish), annexed to the city of Sunland Park, a predominantly Spanish-speaking Mexican-American community of 11,000 people on the New Mexico/Mexico border near El Paso, Texas. Today the desert blooms with 14 energy efficient straw bale homes, a community center, a model home, and a park. Six more homes are under construction and will be complete in July. The plan is to build forty-seven homes, so Tierra Madre still has a long way to go, but it already feels like a neighborhood.

Tierra Madre allows low-income families to build and own their own homes (but not the land they sit on) without a down payment, explains Dolores Saldana-Caviness, the community’s director. The land is held in common by the community, which determines a formula for sale prices to keep mortgage payments low and assure affordable housing into the future. Energy efficient straw bale construction, passive solar design, solar water heaters, water harvesting, gray water systems, and permaculture design keep utility bills low while preserving resources and protecting the fragile desert environment. At the same time, residents of the job-poor area are creating economic alternatives for themselves by learning marketable straw-bale building and permaculture skills.

Families who are approved for loans must complete eight hours of home-buyer education to be eligible to build. A self-help construction program empowers a group of four to six families to work together on their homes after work and on weekends. Each family must commit to working for twenty-five to thirty hours a week while its group builds a cluster of homes—ten to twelve months of hard work. The 1,500-square-foot, mostly four-bedroom straw bale homes were designed by architect Brian Lockhart from Bisbee, Arizona.

Tierra Madre needs financial contributions to continue to thrive. Contact the non-profit organization at (505) 589-4412; P.O. Box 1768, Sunland Park, NM 88063. 








Post a comment below.

 

iggypop
5/15/2014 8:43:38 AM
I read about a similar community from USA, they had the same principles like the Tierra Madre housing project and helped hundreds of people find a place to live. When my niece decided to buy a house I suggested her to search for http://www.salin.com/wealth-management on a list of websites, she was very interested about a community like Tierra Madre but the area was to far from her workplace.








Subscribe today and save 58%

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living!

Welcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $14.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $19.95.