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Program Teaches Low-Income Families to Build Own Homes

Program Teaches Low-Income Families to Build Own Homes

Posted - Sep. 1, 2003 at 4:30 p.m.



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Shelley Osterloh ReportingFor many low-income families the dream of owning their own house remains just a dream. But a program called the Mutal Self Help Housing Program is teaching families to literally build their own homes.

It's a little like an old fashioned barn raising with a modern twist. Families team up and agree to build their own and each other's houses.

Kim Datwyler, Exec. Dir. Mutual Self Help Help Housing: "We had families come out and they had never touched a tool before, by the end they'd have their tool belts out you would see them up on the roof. We have pregnant ladies up on roof. And they knew what they were doing."

They have one thing in common: they cannot afford to buy a home, but all qualified for the Mutual Self Help Housing Program. Each family spends 35 hours a week building homes.

Annie Stevenson: "It is hard work. We don't mind the work as much as the time, it’s a lot of time.. It's our life right now."

Mark and Annie Stevenson hold full time jobs at Utah State University and say they knew nothing about construction.

Mark Stevenson: "Just the education we get from learning it now, it's going to help us so much down the road."

Eight families work together as a group, under the guidance of a construction supervisor and they build about 65% of the homes themselves. This sweat equity acts as a down payment for their home.

Trent Hansen, Construction Supervisor: "I’m always amazed at how fast people pick it up. They are very interested in doing quality work, they are building their own homes. It gives people a chance to basically get a piece of the American dream that they may otherwise not be able to have."

No family moves in until all eight houses are finished. Building it themselves means about 25 to 30-thousand dollars saved per home. Each family receives a government-backed construction loan, but no mortgage payments are due until they move in. Interest rates are determined by family size and income and can be as low as 1%.

While one group of homes is under construction, another nearby subdivision is finished, and families like Andrea and Greg Stokes are already living their dream.

Andrea Stokes: "It’s unbelievable what you can do, what you can accomplish and the things you can feel about yourself after you're done are unbelievable."

In the last couple of years 24 homes have been completed in the Cache County town of Nibley and 16 more are under construction. Families in the Mutual Self Help Housing program say building a house is building confidence, a community and a future.

The Mutual Self Help Housing program is available in the rural communities of Cache County, Payson, Unitah Basin, Moab, Kamas and Washington County.

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