-by Julie Lindquist – All Local. All Southern Utah
TOQUERVILLE — In spite of rising real estate prices, seven more moderate-income families in Washington County have a home to call their own.
The families worked a combined 11,000 hours to help build their own homes in Toquerville and LaVerkin as part of the Mutual Self-Help Housing program.
In exchange for working 35-plus hours per week for 8-12 months, participants pay just $500 down and have no closing costs on a low-interest 33 year mortgage. The program provides an affordable way for families to get into a home of their own.
“It is great to have the families be able to get into their new homes with so much equity and affordable payments,” Self-Help Homes Executive Director Brad Bishop said. “But my favorite part is that they get to know each other so well and have a tight-knit community.”
The seven families broke ground in March 2018, and have spent most of their free time over the past year working together as a team to build the new, energy efficient homes. After a last-minute scramble to address some minor issues, the families moved into their new homes in late March.
Under the direction of a construction supervisor, the families frame, roof, put up drywall, install cabinets and do painting and finish work. The families perform about 70 percent of the labor on each other’s houses – and no one can move in until all the houses are finished.
“The home owners pick up so many new construction skills while building their homes – and this gives them the confidence to fix or maintain their homes on their own,” Bishop said.
The families perform about 70 percent of the labor on each other’s houses – and no one can move in until all the houses are finished.
The homes are built generously sized lots which are .25 acre or larger. Lots and their pre-assigned house plans are chosen at the time of application and in the order in which families apply – first come, first served.
The Self-Help Homes program offers a $500 down payment and low interest rates to qualified families with low- to moderate- income, good credit and low debt. The homes are all three-bedroom, two-bathroom with an extra unfinished ‘bonus space.’
The Mutual Self-Help Housing program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development and administered in Washington County by Self-Help Homes, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization based in Provo.
Self-Help Homes has been in operation in Utah for 20 years and has helped build homes for nearly 500 families. In northern Utah, homes have been built in Payson, Salem, Santaquin, Saratoga Springs, Eagle Mountain and Heber City.
Self-Help Homes took over the Mutual Self-Help Housing program in Washington County from Five County Association of Governments in 2015; so far 13 homes have been completed in southern Utah. Eighteen more lots in Toquerville, purchased and developed by Self-Help Homes, will be the site of the next two groups of families to build.
Here’s a quick summary of how Self-Help homes works:
- Self-Help Homes buys land, develops the lots and helps the homeowners/builders secure a low-interest USDA – Rural Development mortgage.
- Participants must meet income requirements, have a stable income, low debt and good credit. A downpayment of $500 is required, plus a few hundred dollars in tool costs.
- Groups of 6-10 families go through the ‘build’ together – everyone works on each other’s homes, and no one can move in until all the homes are finished.
- Self-Help Homes hires subcontractors for any work that requires a license: electrical, plumbing, concrete, etc.
- Homeowners do the rest of the work, including framing, roofing, cabinet installation, drywall, painting, etc. A site supervisor organizes the families and volunteers and teaches them the needed skills. No building experience is required.
- Each family must commit to providing 35 hours of labor per week. Friends, family members and volunteers can provide half of those hours.
More information about how to apply for the program is available at selfhelphomes.org and Facebook or by contacting Julie Lindquist at (435) 429-1048 or firstname.lastname@example.org.