ST. GEORGE – Many people dream of home ownership, but with bills, rent and red tape, it seems far out of reach. In this case, with hard work a new home is possible.
The mutual self-help program from Five County Association of Governments began operation in December 2013 after application and request from the U.S. Department of Agriculture rural development. Five County AOG is succeeding to what was formerly the Color Country Housing program, but details are in process and comment on the transition would be premature, said Scott Leavitt, chief financial officer of Five County AOG.
The Mutual Self-Help program allows participants to build 60 percent of their home, allowing them to save money on labor costs, avoid a down payment and also receive a subsidized loan with the USDA’s rural development lending program.
“They subsidize interest rates and can even do a 38-year loan instead of a 30-year loan,” Leavitt said. “Also, if market rate is 4 percent we can subsidize the loan to as low as 1 percent.”
Elia Torres recently moved into her new home on Dec. 29, 2013 in Ivins. She applied for the program, went to the meeting required and worked 20 hours a week on her home and her neighbor’s homes. As part of the program, those applying are put into groups and help each other build. Friendships and community relationships are built, along with the pride of home ownership.
Torres said repeatedly that she is very lucky. “I love it. I’m really happy. Everybody is really happy,” Torres said.
Rob Gray is currently in the process of building his home, also in Ivins. He and his family of five hope to move into their home by April.
After qualifying by income level and credit requirements, the work began. “It’s hard because I actually have two jobs and so we split the hours, me and my wife do, and luckily we have been able to do that,” Gray said. “On Saturdays we put in 10-hour days so it hasn’t been too bad.”
Gray is a teacher and everyone in his group has a different background, but they all work together.
“No one can move in until the last home is completed so it is a total group effort,” Gray said.
One member of the group is a framer and helps especially with that aspect of their homes, which has been helpful.
“Building a home is usually all about yourself, but with this you better be paying attention with what you are doing when framing with someone else’s house because they are going to be framing yours,” Leavitt said.
Another benefit of the program is that as the participants are building, they develop a familiarity with their home. When problems arise in the future, they are more comfortable changing the water heater and fixing other issues.
The community is strengthened through friendships, pride in building, service opportunities and investments into the local economy. Service opportunities abound because if a participant is unavailable, the program allows volunteer hours so a friend, church group or others can help if needed.
“We are starting five homes out in Ivins and these are homes that probably wouldn’t be constructed otherwise,” Leavitt said. “The total amount of money that we are putting into Ivins is almost a million dollars. It’s all local and a million dollars goes a long way.”
For more information regarding the Mutual Self-Help program contact Doni Pack at 435-673-3548 and email@example.com.
St. George News reporter Alexa Verdugo Morgan contributed to this report.
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