Elizabeth Doney Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
Work is nearly complete on the first five Mutual Self-Help program homes in Havre's newest neighborhood, 14th Place W. , located adjacent to 14th Street West. Another eight people have been approved to begin constructing their mutual-self help homes beginning in August, with four of the Phase Two homes still available for application. The program offers a chance at homeownership to those who may not have qualified for traditional home financing. Snow and rain caused a few delays in the first phase of the home building program that broke ground last September, but completion gets closer every day for the homeowners, contruction manager and volunteers who are now spending evenings and weekends painting, siding, and building and staining decks in the final stages of Phase One. Diane Sevesten, director of the program, said Milk River Engineering will complete the paving, curbs and drainage system of the new roads as soon as the Phase One construction is complete, which may be as early as August 1. The Mutual Self-Help Housing Program, which became available in Havre in June 2006, is funded through USDA's Rural Development and requires 32 hours of "sweat equity" each week which goes toward the home builders' down payment. The soon-to-be homeowners have formed an association and dedicated 10 percent more than the required 65 percent of sweat equity. They are expected to move in next month, but not until each home is complete. That means when one falls behind, the assocation pulls together to help keep on schedule. "It can be daunting for people to take on the task of building their own home, even with the help of the construction manager and the 30 volunteers who have stepped forward to help build a new neighborhood and fufill dreams of homeownership through the Mutal Self-Help Program," Paula Horsley, group specialist for the program said, "Right now there are four homes (build sites) still available for financing to low-income families interested in building their own home. Even if people are turned down because of their credit, we work with them on getting their credit improved so they can apply the following year. We do end up getting a lot of applications, which is good it's a long process getting the homeownership application approved." Rocky Horsley is the construction manager for the program. Horsely also volunteered his time to the program by compiling construction cost estimates from local companies for specialized work and designing basic floor plans of the houses before the grant was even funded. "It's been a learning experience for me," Horsley said. "I've never formerly been trained as a teacher or instructor and it takes a lot of communication and Patience it can be challenging at times. Our job is to walk the homeowners through the process of construction. We are their liaison with the contractors and try to keep the houses all moving at the same pace, which saves time and money in the long run. By the time they are done with their homes, they should be able to have enough skills to renovate or make repairs.” Horsley works with the homeowners, their families and community volunteers many who have limited or no experience in construction. Church members, family members, court-ordered community service members, UPS drivers, railroad employees, Hill County Electric and North WestEnergy employees, housewives, college and high school students close to 30 community volunteers, have donated time to the program. Family members of the homebuilders have also pitched in. Terry and Donna Bremner said they are so excited about their daughter's home-building and that they come from Browning frequently to add their own sweat equity not just for their daughter's home, but for all the homeowners. "By the time we get done with the homeowners, they will know what it takes to be a home owner," Paula Horsley said. "That's what it's all about. Homeowners are considered their own general contractor and there's no other program that has that." Volunteers are still needed in the final stages of the Phase One build to help with augering, landscaping and clean up. Local contractors are finishing the electrical, plumbing, installation of carpet and linoleum flooring. "And you don't have to be skilled or anything to help the construction supervisor Rockey Horsley will train them," Sevesten said. "We will need help with painting, landscaping, building, hammering nails, cleaning the site, a tool inventory person, childcare, and supervison of volunteers if there is someone with building skills. We would appreciate the help." District 4 Human Resources and Development staff are currently seeking a third homebuild site, which they hope to begin building in June 2008, when the 11 homes in Phase Two are expected be complete. For more information or to volunteer assistance to the program, call 265-6743.