-by Josephine Zimmerman – Daily Herald
Payson – Seven more families have an opportunity for home ownership, thanks to the Mutual Self Help Housing program. Brad Bishop, of the Utah County Housing Authority, director of the Mutual Self Help project, said ground was broken for seven more homes recently in the Payson Dry Creek Subdivision at 1435 S. 300 West. Last year the first group of seven homes was started, and those homes are approximately 50 percent completed. The seven families enlisted in the new program are all from Utah County. The program is part of the Rural Housing Development Corp., a nonprofit organization. The concept of the program is that a group of homeowners work as a team and provide “sweat equity” not only on their own homes, but work on all homes within the group. Each family will contribute a minimum of 30 hours per week, which labor can include things like framing, roofing and insulation. The labor is considered the down payment. All homes must be completed before any family can move in. In a period of nine months, the group will work under the direction of a licensed construction supervisor and contribute 65 percent of the construction labor on each others’ homes. Participating families have the opportunity to select their own lots and house plan. Seminars and meetings were conducted to help families qualify for RD loans. To become eligible for the program, an applicant must have low debt, good credit, enough income to qualify for a mortgage with USDA, and be willing to work the labor necessary for the project. The applicant must also be income qualified and earn less than 80 percent of the area median income (i.e., family of 4 must earn less than $37,000 per year). Over the next two years, RHDC will administer the building of 20 homes in Payson for eligible families. Sponsors of the program said self-help housing is more than just building homes. It stimulates local economies, establishes credit, and builds new skills, self confidence and a community. It is about pride in having a place to call home. Financing for land acquisition was provided by the Housing Assistance Council and the Home Ownership Program of Washington D.C. and the Utah Valley Consortium of Cities and County with HOME funds. Gene Carly, executive director of the Housing Authority of Utah County, secretary-treasurer of the RHDC Board of Trustees, said that Utah County is the 24th “least affordable housing area in the nation, following cities like San Francisco, San Diego and Honolulu.” He said the area median income for a family of four is $46,500 per year. In Utah County, only 42 percent of median income families can afford to buy homes. This self-help program will enable 20 families in Utah to become homeowners who might not otherwise have that opportunity. Assisting with the project has been: the Bank of American Fork, Housing Assistance Council, Payson City, U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development and the Utah Valley Consortium of Cities and County.