TOQUERVILLE — Nine families are moving into new homes, thanks to thousands of hours of their own hard work and with the help of the USDA – Rural Development’s Mutual Self-Help Housing program.
The families completed their homes, passed final inspections and were given the go-ahead to start moving in March 18, about 10 months after breaking ground.
“We are so excited for our families, they have worked so hard to get to this point,” Self-Help Homes spokeswoman Julie Lindquist said in a press release. “To be able to finally move in and have a home of their own — well, that’s just awesome. We are so proud of them.”
The homes were built with the assistance of Self-Help Homes, a non-profit that manages the U.S.D.A. – RD program in Washington County.
The families include 16 adults and 18 children; the group broke ground on their homes in May 2019.
The families and their volunteers contributed at least 35 hours of labor each week, working together as a team to frame and sheet the houses, put up drywall, install cabinets and do all of the painting and finish work.
“No one can move in until all of the homes are finished,” Lindquist said. “It is an amazing way to build a neighborhood and learn a lot of new skills in the process.”
Throughout the project, the families contributed about 1,500 hours each — about 70% of the labor needed to complete the homes.
No construction experience is required to participate in the program; all of the work is done directed by a Self-Help Homes construction supervisor.
Subcontractors are hired for any work that requires a license, including electrical wiring, HVAC, plumbing and concrete.
The program offers an affordable way for low- to moderate-income families to get into a home of their own, Lindquist said.
“They only have to come up with $500 down and up to $500 in tool costs,” Lindquist said. “With housing costs so high in Southern Utah, this program is a wonderful way for these families to be able to get into a home of their own. And often, their mortgage payments are less than what they have been paying in rent.”
The program also offers low-interest rates, no out-of-pocket closing costs and mortgage subsidies, which depend on income and family size. To participate, families must meet income requirements, have a stable income, decent credit and low debt.
Self-Help homes and COVID-19
While a planned open house for the Toquerville families was canceled due to restrictions on public gatherings, the program will continue with appropriate precautions, Lindquist said.
“Self-Help Homes is still plowing forward, and we are excited for the two most recent groups that finished and were able to move in,” Self-Help Homes Executive Director Brad Bishop said in a statement.
Three more Self-Help Homes groups are expected to close on their construction loans and start building in the next couple of months, he added.
Even with current and potential restrictions due to COVID-19, the program will be able to continue.
“We are encouraged as we have felt the support from USDA-Rural Development,” Bishop said.
“We may at times have to limit workers to immediate family members or smaller groups at the worksites, but this alternative method of construction will enable families to continue working on their new homes during this time. We want everyone to follow CDC guidelines and to take extra precautions to help keep everyone safe.”
Self-Help Homes has several groups of families building homes in Heber and Salem. In Southern Utah, a new group of seven families will begin construction in Toquerville in the next few weeks. More groups will follow.
The Mutual Self-Help Housing Program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development, which provides low-interest mortgages. Since 2015, Self-Help Homes has administered the program in Washington County.
Self-Help Homes is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization based in Provo that has already helped families build more than 500 homes in Washington, Utah and Wasatch counties.
The Mutual Self-Help Housing program has been in operation for 55 years and helped build approximately 55,000 homes nationwide; Self-Help Homes has been in operation for more than 20 years.