USDA Rural Housing Administration tours Elk Ridge home

Daily Herald | May 28, 2014

Next month will be an exciting time for nine families who will be moving into their brand-new homes in Elk Ridge.

These are not just any homes; they are homes the individual families spent hours upon hours building and working on as part of the Self-Help Homes program. Construction is also getting ready to begin on 42 more homes in the lower part of Elk Ridge.

“It is surreal that next month we will be done and ready to move into our new home,” said Wyatt Gordon. “This is an exciting time for my family, and what a beautiful area we have the opportunity to live in.”

The houses are being constructed through Self-Help Homes, which first received United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development funding in 2000. The mission of Self-Help Homes is to provide quality, affordable housing opportunities to individuals and families living in central Utah. The USDA’s Mutual Self-Help Housing program requires participants to complete 65 percent of the home’s construction themselves. In fiscal year 2013, USDA Rural Development helped more than 2,700 Utah families become homeowners, including 90 through the Mutual Self-Help program.

“In 14 years, we have only had three foreclosures, with a 1 percent default rate,” said Brad Bishop, executive director for Self-Help Homes. “We are the most successful self-help program out there.”

In August 2012, Self-Help Homes surpassed 300 homes started with the Self-Help Homes program, and in August 2013, Self-Help Homes opened the Mutual Self-Help Housing program for the first time in Elk Ridge.

“It has been a great experience working with these other couples and getting to know who our neighbors will be,” said McKay Lloyd. “We have spent two years looking for a home, and with what was out there for the amount we qualified for, the homes were run down. We couldn’t pass up this kind of opportunity.”

The construction for the Elk Ridge homes began in October 2013 and is scheduled to be completed by the end of next month. At the beginning of the construction phase, all the couples met with the supervisor responsible for overseeing the development, and they were then paired up to do the same construction work on each home.

“My wife and I worked with another couple on the basement walls,” said new homeowner Scott Tuttle. “We are overjoyed with this opportunity to own a brand-new home for our family, and we have worked so hard to have this.”

Each of the nine homes is roughly 1,400 square feet with an unfinished basement. The new homeowners have to spend a minimum of 35 hours a week working on the homes. The Elk Ridge group is putting in way more than that, with some weeks averaging close to 50 hours.

“These wonderful people are just like everyone else, and have had the dream of owning their own home,” said Tony Hernandez, an administrator for the Rural Housing Service. “These couples want to own their future, and own their home.”

The Section 502 Mutual Self-Help Housing Loan program is used to help low-income households build their own homes. The program is geared toward families who are unable to buy new, clean and safe housing through conventional methods. The savings from the reduction in labor costs allows otherwise ineligible families to own their homes.

If any of the families cannot meet their mortgage payments during the construction phase, the funds for the payments can be included in the loan.

“These are hard-working people who have spent many hours working on these homes,” Hernandez said. “They should be proud of the work they have done and their new homes.”

For more information on the Self-Help Homes program, go here.

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