HURRICANE — Self-Help Homes of Southern Utah is now building homes in Hurricane and is looking for more families for its affordable sweat-equity program for home ownership.
Nine families are getting ready to close on their loans and start building within a few weeks, Self-Help spokeswoman Julie Lindquist said in a press release.
“We are working on the second Hurricane group and we need three more qualified families,” Lindquist said.
Another group of seven families is currently building in Toquerville and is expected to finish up in the next couple of months.
“We’ve hired another construction supervisor for Southern Utah, so we will be able to have two groups building at the same time. That’s is very exciting,” Lindquist said.
Self-Help Homes recently acquired and began developing land in Hurricane. The new Hurricane Heights property is located between 400 and 600 North, about 650 West – an area which is close to three schools, the city pool, dog park and baseball fields. The first two phases of development will total 23 lots, with 5 more acres available for Phase 3.
“We’re going to be building at this location for at least a couple of years,” Lindquist said. The house plans used for Hurricane Heights will be flat-roofed “desert traditional” and have three or four bedrooms on a small lot.
The Self-Help program is for low-to-moderate-income families who meet credit, debt ratio and other qualifications. Single people and single parents are welcome, as are larger families.
“This program is great for families who can’t afford a big down payment and a traditional mortgage,” Lindquist said. The USDA loans offer a very low down payment of $500 plus up to $500 in tool costs, low interest rates and monthly subsidies, depending on income and family size.
The program is unique in that families work together as a group – usually 7-10 families – and do about 70 percent of the labor on the homes. Each family must supply at least 35 hours per week of labor on their own and their new neighbors’ homes.
Program participants and their volunteers work together as a team to frame and sheet the homes, put up drywall, install cabinets and flooring and do all of the painting and finish work. Subcontractors are hired for electrical, plumbing, concrete and any other work which requires a license.
“No one can move in, until all of the homes are finished and pass USDA inspection,” Lindquist said.
Self-Help Homes, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, receives grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development to run the self-help program. The grants are separate from the loans homeowners get.
“So, we don’t need to make money on these homes,” Lindquist said. “In fact, we can’t. This keeps the costs down and many times, our families have tens of thousands of dollars of equity in their homes when they move in.”
Throughout the 8- to 10-month process of building the homes, each group of families learns to work together as a team, as well as acquiring a lot of home improvement skills.
“It builds good working relationships and friendships among the group members,” Lindquist said. “It’s one of the coolest things about this program.”
“These families are very invested in their homes by the time they finish,” Lindquist said. “They also know their homes, literally, from the inside out. It makes them very good homeowners and neighbors.”
Self-Help Homes has been able to continue helping families build homes during the pandemic by using appropriate precautions such as cancelling open houses, limiting the number of volunteers, using smaller work groups and having sanitizing measures in place.
Self-Help Homes celebrated 22 years of building homes in Utah on November 23 and oversees the Mutual Self-Help Housing program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development. USDA – RD provides the participating families with low-interest mortgages.
More than 500 homes have been built in Washington, Wasatch and Utah counties with the assistance of Self-Help Homes.
The USDA Mutual Self-Help Housing program has been in operation for more than 55 years and helped build more than 55,000 homes nationwide.
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