HURRICANE, Utah (ABC4) — Finding an affordable home in Utah is sometimes a herculean task, considering the average home value in the state is over $510,000. But if you’re willing to put in some extra work, one non-profit is offering what could be a very affordable option.
Self-Help Homes, a Utah-based non-profit, gives families a chance to build their own affordable homes in rural Southern Utah, but it’s not for the faint of heart. Families literally build their own homes with their own two hands.
Families and their volunteers have to contribute at least 35 hours of labor each week. They will work together to frame and sheet the houses, put up drywall, install cabinets and add the finishing touches such as painting. The entire process is guided under the direction of a supervisor. Self-Help Homes spokesperson Julie Lindquist said the non-profit will take care of the rest.
“Our families only do labor; everything that requires a license is contracted out,” Lindquist said. Contracted work includes site preparation, footings and foundations, electrical, HVAC, and plumbing.
While it may be a lot of hard work to get into the world of homeownership, Self-Help Homes said its program has the benefit of an affordable home with low upfront costs.
Lindquist explained families only need to make a $750 down payment and cover a few hundred dollars in costs for tools, credit reports, and homeowner’s education. The homes also come with low interest rates and monthly subsidies. Closing costs are also worked into the loan and mortgages are 33 or 38 years.
The total monthly mortgage amount depends on a family’s income and situation. Lindquist said she sees mortgages that end up being less than local rental rates, including insurance and property taxes.
“For families who are willing to work really hard, it’s a wonderful program,” said Lindquist.
Of course, a program like this isn’t available to just anyone. Aside from being willing to put in the laborious work, families can only qualify for the program if they earn less than the U.S. Department of Agriculture income limits and meet credit score, debt ratio, and payment shock qualifications.
Lindquist explained in a press release the income limit for a family of up to four is $70,250 and for a family of five or more, the limit is $92,750. Families classified as “very low income” are given priority for the program, but Lindquist said there isn’t much of a waiting list for the program. Families can expect to start building in about nine to 12 months.
The whole program is funded with the help of the USDA. Self-Help Homes buys and develops property, finds applicants and helps submit full mortgage applications to the USDA Rural Development. Since the program is specifically funded for rural development, Lindquist said they are limited to where they can build.
“We can’t build in St. George or Washington City,” Lindquist said. “Because the program is through Rural development, we have to stay in areas that are still rural.”
Currently, Self-Help Homes is building Hurricane, about 18 miles northeast of St. George. In the past, the program has built homes in Ivins, Toquerville and LaVerkin. Lindquist said the program is actively looking for families willing to help build and fill those Hurricane homes and applications are always open.
To apply for the program, families need to review the qualifications and then fill out a ‘pre-application.’ If everything looks good and is approved, they are put on a waiting list. The application can be found on the Self-Help Homes website.