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Self-Help Homes in the News
May 17th 2021
Payson program has families building each other's homes
-by Todd Hollingshead - Daily Herald
PAYSON - There is nothing unusual about saving money by building your own house. Unless you've never built anything in your life. But that's exactly what a handful of families are doing in Payson, with the help of Rural Housing Development Corporation's mutual self-help program. "We get a group of 6 to 10 families, and they build each other's houses," said Brad Bishop, director of Rural Housing. "They have to work at least 30 hours a week, and it takes just under 10 months to complete the homes." Rural Housing has directed the program since August 2000, helping eligible families attain home ownership through what they call "sweat equity." Home builders have completed 60 houses in the Payson area since the inception of the program, with the latest 10-home project finishing earlier this month. A ribbon-cutting ceremony at 918 W. 1550 South gave way to the newly finished homes in the area July1, and the same day a ground breaking ceremony at 1071 S. 350 East kicked off the construction of 10 new homes in that area. There are 11 more homes slotted for construction in Payson and Salem in the upcoming year. Building families must complete a minimum of 65 percent of the construction (electrical, plumbing and concrete work is done by professionals), Bishop said, and no one is allowed to move in until every home in the group is finished. Participating families said the teamwork approach makes for great results, and not only in terms of construction. "Because we 10 families worked together as a team, we've created for ourselves a neighborhood where the residents really know and care about each other," said Secilia Payton, a first-time homeowner. "This program has been such a blessing to our family." Construction of the mutual self-help homes takes place only in rural areas and family builders have to qualify financially by being at 80 percent of area median income. For a family of four, their income has to be no higher than $44,900. Bishop said the new homeowners then pay their mortgage at a percentage of their income--usually no more than 30 percent. If a new owner's income goes up or down, their mortgage payment fluctuates as well to accommodate the payments they can make. Scot McCauley got his house through the program and now works as a volunteer coordinator to help groups like BYUs construction management students who pitch in on weekends with more technical construction aspects of homes. "You actually get something for your work, your time and your money," McCauley said. "And you learn how to build a house. Now I think I could build a house again if I chose to." Families go to Rural Housing to apply for the program and then the housing agency sends their mortgage applications to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for eligibility consideration, Bishop said. "We've had probably every emotion that comes from building a house from fun and total excitement to, 'OK, when is this going to end?" Bishop said. "We get really excited kids getting their own rooms for the first time. It's living the American dream."