<strong>NIBLEY—</strong>After more than nine months of sweat, labor and commitment, seven Nibley families can finally move in to their newly built homes.
The Mutual Self-Help program – a local branch of the National Non-Profit Housing Corporation – held an open house Tuesday in Nibley for Cache Valley residents to tour homes built through the government program.
“The communities that we build are strong and healthy communities,” said Kim Datwyler, Executive Director for the MSH program. “We build more than houses. The biggest benefit is what we help the families to achieve and believe in. They become very confident, skilled and able and it creates a mindset that if you can build your own house, anything else that comes along they can do.”
The program gives families an opportunity to pick from 11-16 different floor plans and build their own homes with the help of other families within the program. The MSH program buys plots of land, and works with families to build anywhere from 5-12 homes at once.
Construction managers oversee construction, families work together under their guidance. Families can put in as many hours as they choose, but each family is required to put in at least 35 hours per week, and attend a homeowner’s workshop prior to building. The families work on all the homes, and no one is allowed to move in until all the homes in the group have been finished.
Since October, Jamie Hopkins and her husband Christian have spent countless hours constructing the seven new homes alongside six other families.
“It feels really good to be done,” Hopkins said. “We’ve been working really hard for it. It’s like a 9-month marital workshop that gives you a house at the end. It’s really rewarding and we’re very excited.”
Hopkins and their fellow builders spent at least four days a week working, being given Fridays and Sundays off, but putting in time every other day of the week, including 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays. For the past month, the families have put in even more time to ensure they finished in time for the open house.
“Having a stable home is what makes a good community,” Datwyler said. “That’s the basis for everything else we want to achieve. If we can give everyone a stable home where they are happy, you create the ability to achieve other goals. There are just so many benefits to being in a stable housing situation. “
Since Datwyler started the program in Cache Valley in 2001, the MSH program has overseen the building of 282 homes. In those 11 years, only one home has suffered foreclosure – stemming from the only divorce that Datwyler said she is aware of in program houses.
Not that the homes come without sacrifice.
MSH program director Dave Frandsen said the biggest obstacle that families face through the program is the time commitment.
“It’s a big commitment but a big return,” Frandsen said. “Sometimes there are personal circumstances that don’t allow the time, but people figure out how to make it work. My thought is where there’s a will there’s a way. If people have the will and desire they can do it.”
Hopkins said they are glad to be done so they can spend more time with their 14-month old daughter Lydia. Thomas and Sharli Fredrickson, another pair of first-time home owners and Hopkins’ next-door neighbor, also expressed relief and said it was a stressful nine months.
“It’s been a high priority. If you don’t show up it doesn’t happen,” Fredrickson said. “I had to switch jobs when Sharli got pregnant so I could put in the hours. It’s semi-stress free. There’s times when you need a day off to relax.”
But despite the stress and hard labor, both the Hopkins and the Fredrickson’s said it was worth building the homes themselves. Because the families labored themselves, they earned sweat equity and weren’t required to make a down payment on the homes, and payments after move-in are based on each family’s income.
In fact, Frandsen said the only money that families spend out of their own pockets prior to moving in is for builder’s risk insurance and some property taxes. Frandsen also said that because the families work so hard together building the homes, it builds the community and results in families staying in the homes.
The MSH program built its first round of homes in Nibley, and 75 percent of those homes are still owned by the original builders. Those families have been in those homes for 11 years, or six years longer than the national average.
Datwyler said one family elected to do the program again after they reached a “better financial situation,” building a second home in Nibley not far from the programs initial neighborhood. The NNHC has also had families that didn’t qualify initially that worked for three years to meet the program requirements.
Anyone can apply for the program. Appointments can be made by calling (435) 753-1112, and more information can be found at <a href=”http://www.nnhc.net/”>www.nnhc.net</a>.