who are we ?
Casa Maria’s mission is to create decent affordable housing in South Tucson that offers a path for residents to control their own housing, that preserves a housing future for low-income residents, and that combats community deterioration in this historically disadvantaged community.
South Tucson, historically known as Barrio Libre, is at risk of gentrification as outside investors and real-estate speculators prey on multi-generation homeowners in the barrio. This, in turn, has driven up home prices (and rents) at an unprecedented rate. As recently as 2018, a typical two-bedroom single family home in South Tucson sold for $90,000-$120,000. Today, a comparable home in South Tucson sells for no less than $230,000. Similarly, we believe that rents in South Tucson have increased approximately 20% per year on average since 2020.
According to the 2020 census, 66% of South Tucson households are renters and 35% of the population lives below the federal poverty line. The combination of these conditions leaves our vulnerable residents at risk of being priced out, leaving many homeless. While a long-term goal should be to increase homeownership, additional transitional housing is necessary in South Tucson to blunt the immediate effects of the speculative real estate market.
Casa Maria board of directors recognized that the economic disruptions caused by the pandemic were likely to increase rental prices in South Tucson. To address this challenge, Casa Maria embarked on a strategic plan to purchase residential properties and remove them from the speculative real estate market. Casa Maria rents these units to low-income families, prioritizing those with historic connections to South Tucson who have been pushed out (or are about to be pushed out) to other parts of the county as a result of runaway housing prices in this increasingly attractive neighborhood. By targeting our limited resources in a small geographic space, we seek to counter speculative real estate investors who drive up values in this small area located near the increasingly desirable Downtown Tucson.
Over the past 40 years, Casa Maria has raised nearly a million dollars. After covering our soup kitchen’s operational costs, we used our savings to purchase as many properties as possible. Today, Casa Maria and its sister organization Barrios Unidos Land Trust own and manage 18 affordable housing units, including the El Camino Motel. Most of these units are one or two-bedroom. The average monthly rent of our units are $600 – approximately $400 less than market rate in the current Tucson market. The current monthly rent in these units is affordable for those households earning 60% of AMI.
Initial purchase and/or down payment on these properties was made possible by donations from individual contributors. To date, Casa Maria and its partner organization Barrios Unidos have not tapped into government grants or other institutional funders. During the past three years, rents from these 17 units have been enough to service the debt and cover the costs of deferred maintenance.
Casa Maria’s mission, as part of the lay Catholic Worker Movement founded in 1933 in New York City by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, is to practice daily the love and compassion of Jesus and to implement the teachings of his Gospel and the social doctrine of our church. The Sermon on the Mount and the call to solidarity with the poor are the heart of these teachings.
At Casa Maria, our Catholic Workers are devoted to acts of mercy (feeding and clothing those in need, visiting the ill, etc), voluntary poverty, and the search of justice for the poor. In each action, they use their faith and try to revive the faith in those who have lost it, making them understand that Christ has never left their lives.
As a part of our mission, we seek new and creative ways to organize and let the talent of each one of our volunteer Catholic Workers be destined to achieve spiritual and economical transformation of our community.
“We work for liberty, social justice, and peace”
Spiritual Works of Mercy
- To admonish the sinner.
- To instruct the ignorant.
- To counsel the doubtful.
- To comfort the sorrowful.
- To bear wrongs patiently.
- To forgive all injuries.
- To pray for the living and the dead.
Corporal Works of Mercy
- To feed the hungry.
- To give drink to the thirsty.
- To clothe the naked.
- To visit the imprisoned.
- To shelter the homeless.
- To visit the sick.
- To bury the dead.
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Fighting for Justice, Liberty, & Peace in Barrio Libre