BERNALILLO — After dealing with financial hardships for a decade, Brian Downing and Scholastica Gaong are finally settling into a new home that meets their needs.

From better educational opportunities for their sons Brian Jr. and Ayden, to being centrally located in the Albuquerque metro area, their approximately 1,500 square-foot home checks off those boxes, and more.

“Finally got some place we can retire permanently,” said Gaong, whose family moved into their home last September.

The family qualified for a United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development Direct Home Loan to build their new home, and they were honored Friday as part of National Homeownership Month. The home’s on the 200 block of Piedra Lisa Road, near the Sandoval County Fire and Rescue Administration building.

The Downings celebrated the new home in Bernalillo through a USDA Rural Development Direct Home Loan on Friday, June 17, 2022, as part of National Homeownership Month. From left to right: Brian Downing, Jr., Ayden Downing, Brian Downing, Sr., Scholastica Gaong and U.S.D.A. Rural Development State Director Patricia Dominguez. (Matt Hollinshead/Observer)

The USDA Rural Development department’s New Mexico branch ran the event, which brings attention to the pluses of homeownership, in partnership with the Housing and Urban Development department and the New Mexico Association of Realtors.

“We’re really happy to have it. It’s been a long struggle getting the loan,” Downing said.

The family’s financial troubles began in 2012. They fell victim to identity theft, which affected their credit.

“We had to get all that straightened out. It was a mess,” Downing said.

As the years went by, the family had to watch its budget,  while disputing claims that were tied to that identity theft.

The family is back on its feet, enjoying this latest chapter in their lives.

They’re still in the final stages of relocating from Santa Fe, but are happy to be settling into their new residence.

“It’s wonderful. This is the culmination of a lot of work on their part and our part as well. We do what we can to assist homeowners,” said Patricia Dominguez, U.S.D.A. Rural Development state director. “Despite the fact that this area is somewhat urbanish, they did fall within our eligibility list.”

The loans on what are considered modest homes range from $35,000 to $248,000 and go up to 38 years. Dominguez said the family’s home fell within that range.

Dominguez said that process is similar to getting a regular mortgage, though her department’s the lender.

“We looked through our files and wanted to highlight a success story,” Dominguez said.