Self-Help housing underway in Kamas |

Self-Help housing underway in Kamas

Mountainlands Community Housing Trust is now accepting applications for its spring 2009 Mutual Self-Help Housing Program.

The program helps qualified individuals and families become owners of new homes in Summit County with mortgages they can afford, no down payment and at 15 to 20 percent less than the purchase price.

The catch is that the applicants are required to dedicate 30 hours a week to the building of the homes until every home in the program is complete.

No prior construction experience is required, and family and friends can help fulfill those 30 hours, but applicants must be prepared to dedicate most of their free time for 10 to 12 months.

The most complicated or difficult work is subcontracted out, but participants put in about 65 percent of the required labor and that contribution functions as the down-payment.

Also, unlike other affordable housing programs, explained Scott Loomis, executive director of Mountainlands Community Housing Trust, there are no restrictions attached to the ownership. Participants are allowed to enjoy the benefits of equity and home appreciation.

There are currently 10 homes under construction in the Prairie Junction subdivision in Kamas behind the Food Mart.

Becky Cranney, a current participant, is a single woman in her 50s who currently lives in Draper. She used to live in Kamas and wants to come back to be closer to family, including two adult sons who live in Francis and Woodland.

A third son, Tyrell Cranney, works in construction himself and has seen his mom go from someone who didn’t know the first thing about building a house to practically a "journeyman," he joked.

Tyrell and his two brothers each dedicate at least one night a week to helping their mother complete her 30 hours. But even with their help, she is required to put in a minimum of 15 hours herself.

At first, working construction in the evenings of a 40-hour work week was brutal, but Cranney said she’s gotten used to it.

"We were up in the attics and had our framing hammers. We were putting sub-floors down. I learned a lot. I am so excited," she said.

Like many participants, the housing trust is Cranney’s only chance to own her own home.

Tyrell and his mom both talked about how wonderfully the neighbors work together.

Rather than each family working on their own home, all the participants work on the same homes at the same time, going down the block working together until each phase is complete. No one gets to move in until all are done and everyone moves in together, Loomis explained..

This has introduced everyone and built a camaraderie as they help each other, Cranney said.

"I can’t think of one problem we’ve had. We already know each other before moving in. I can’t say enough for the program," she said.

This is the seventh year of the project and in the past people have still been swinging hammers as the snow fell. This year’s group is ahead of schedule, Loomis said.

The goal is to complete all of the exteriors before winter so the colder months are spent inside working on the interiors.

The Prairie Junction group is already putting in landscape and will lay sod and finish with roofing this Saturday, Cranney said.

The neighborhoods are usually completed in February or March, but Cranney said her group is shooting to be ahead of the game and be in by the end of January.

As the homes take shape, the neighbors are already making plans to help each other put together backyards next spring.

The skills learned in the building have made some tasks that previously required hiring somebody easy.

"I want to put a garage out back later, and I realized, I can do it myself now," Cranney said.

People who are approved for the program and receive the necessary loans first get first dibs on the lots and building plans.

The homes are roughly 1,500 square feet and usually blend into the neighborhoods around them, Loomis said.

Single people making less than $43,000 and a family of four making less than $61,000 may qualify and are encouraged to contact Veronica Saenz at 647-9719 for more information.

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