-by Karissa Neely – Daily Herald
Braving the heat, nine families celebrated the completion of their homes Tuesday in Elk Ridge. But this was not an ordinary completion party – these families had built the homes together as a team.
The families worked through the Self-Help Homes Program, a national program sponsored through USDA-Rural Development. The local chapter is a United Way organization based in Provo that has been in operation since 2000, and has completed more than 350 homes locally. The families worked together to build their homes in the Elk Ridge Meadows Subdivision.
The national Self-Help Homes Program is celebrating its 50 year anniversary and will have completed 50,000 homes nationwide. The program helps lower-income families get into homes by teaming them together in groups that then learn the skills to build each of the homes.
The Self-Help Housing Program is similar to Habitat for Humanity, in that families are required to contribute to the building of their own home. But it is different because the actual homeowners are grouped into teams of up to 10 homes, and are required to work 35 hours each week on the homes, and only 10 of those hours can be from family or friends help. The families in the group are not just building one house at a time, but are building all of the homes as they work.
“It’s always so cool to see a mechanic and a computer programmer working together, or a single mom up on a roof swinging a hammer,” said Brad Bishop, executive director of Self-Help Homes.
Through the program the families had to provide 65 percent of the labor on the homes. In return, their labor counts as a down payment towards their home, and in most cases, the families have an average of $22,000 in equity the minute they step into their finished home — along with lifelong skills.
“When they’re done here, some of these crews could get on a roofing crew and do it professionally,” said Joel Bennett, the superintendent of home building for this project.
After the open house celebration Tuesday, many of the families were ready to get into those homes that night. Some had even come to the celebration with moving trucks in tow, and as soon as Bennett gave them their keys, beds and couches paraded through the doorways.
The Frank family joined that procession. After almost a year of working days at his full-time job at Vivint, and then spending hours in the evenings working on the homes, Steve Frank was excited to be done. He and his wife, Kori, have two children with one on the way.
“For almost a year, it’s like Steve never saw the kids. He was there every night and Saturdays,” Kori said.
Bennett, as the team leader, split the homeowners into teams, and trained them as crews in specific tasks. Tanner Plauche, who also came every day after work, was part of the crew that built the floors and roofs for all of the homes.
“And that’s amazing, because Tanner’s actually afraid of heights,” said his wife, Sarah.
Karen Weatherspoon has been a housing manager with Self-Help for 13 years. Her favorite part of her job is these nights, even in the heat.
“It is all so worth it. To see these families get into these homes, that’s the best part,” she said.