Meet Laz Ayala & KDA Homes
By Cynthia Scherr
Laz Ayala carried the American Dream inside him when he crossed the U.S. border in the trunk of a Cadillac as a 14-year-old. Now Laz, with partners Mark Knox and David DeCarlow, are making the American Dream of owning a home accessible to Southern Oregonians. Southern Oregon Entrepreneur to Entrepreneur (E2E) visited KDA Homes to hear Laz’s immigrant success story and his vision for sustainable communities.
Laz fled the violence of El Salvador’s civil war in the 1980s. His migrant experience, walking in the desert, shuttling from safe house to safe house, to finally being smuggled across a checkpoint in Tijuana, shaped his adult life and his commitment to advocating for the immigrant community. A book about his journey and a documentary titled, Illegal, aim to humanize the current narrative around undocumented immigration, give voice to the voiceless and educate Americans about the immigrant experience.
Laz lives his life according to four P’s: People first, Positivity, Perseverance, and Purpose. E2E members could hear each “P” as Laz told us how KDA Homes was formed.
“Connections are powerful. This is how things get done: meeting, sharing ideas, having conversations.” Laz’s philosophy aligns perfectly with E2E, a group of entrepreneurs that meets to do just that.
At 19, still undocumented, Laz got his start in real estate when a friend suggested it could be a great career for him. He shared that he “wanted to work with his head, not his back.”
Laz donned a gold coat with Century 21 Real Estate in Medford and became their top listing agent. He read every book, listened to every tape and developed a system for selling, knocking on doors all over town. Likely due to his positive attitude and diligence, agents supported him and the community embraced him.
Frugal and determined, Laz saved enough to invest in rental property. He went back to school for his broker’s license and then to Rogue Community College for an AA degree in business.
He wisely put aside money prior to the recession, which enabled him to exercise opportunities for development in Ashland once the housing market collapsed. KDA Homes started six years ago. Carefully analyzing the market, Laz and his team realized that entry-level housing was in high demand and short supply. They combined their commitment to affordability, sustainability and innovation in their new developments.
KDA Homes is pioneering a concept in sustainable community living including shared transportation.
Medford and other localities have already shown interest in replicating their Garden Cottages development which features modest-size homes facing a common pollinator garden, certified life-long housing (e.g. no steps, wide hallways), laundry-to-landscape water recycling, net-zero solar power, car charging stations, and a shared electric vehicle program. All in an area that is walking distance to downtown, close to an elementary school, the dog park and the Greenway.
It takes extraordinary hope, energy, and commitment to create a successful life in a new country.
Laz Ayala not only persevered with positivity, but he also put the needs of people first in all of his work. Hopefully, the connections and conversations through E2E will further fulfill his purpose as an advocate for immigrants and a visionary real estate developer.
To learn more about KDA Homes, visit their website at kda-homes.com.
And, to learn more about Laz’s movement to humanize immigration and ultimately influence our country’s immigration policy, visit illegaltheproject.org.
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