Understanding Self-Help Housing

Brynn Grimley writes:

A quick read of the comments below the story I wrote today about the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority’s self-help housing projects planned for Kingston and Silverdale shows that people may be confused about how the program works.

I’ll take the blame, I should have explained it better.

First it should be noted that KCCHA, (now Housing Kitsap) is the “largest producer of self-help housing in the Northwest.” That’s a statistic kept by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which runs the rural development program that is responsible for financing the self-help housing programs in our area.

KCCHA has built roughly 1,200 affordable homes in Kitsap County since it was formed in 1973.

For the commenters who are worried these homes will be “low-income” housing where crime will be rampant, I suggest a drive through one of the recently developed neighborhoods — or even one of the existing neighborhoods. I drive by one to and from work and it’s the nicest neighborhood I pass along the way. Heck, I spend my hours not at work in one — my neighborhood is a KCCHA self-help housing development that was built before I was born.

I caution those who think these are “welfare” neighborhoods, visit a few before passing judgement. If you want to check out a couple recently built self-help neighborhoods, Port Orchard has a number. Most recently 18 families moved into new homes at Harris Place, which is at the corner of Harris Road and Lund Avenue. Twenty families moved into homes at Reite Estate, also off Harris Road, just south of Lund Avenue. Visit either of these neighborhoods, to get an idea of how they look once complete.

If you want to see people working on their homes, you can watch 27 families construct their Archer Point homes, located at Harold Drive off Bethel Road in Port Orchard, or visit the 24 families who have started construction at Madrona Glen, next to Orchard Heights Elementary School in Port Orchard.

If you can’t make it to these neighborhoods, read Chris Henry’s story, written last summer, about a single mother who was able to become a homeowner through this program. It highlights not only how the program works, but puts a face on the people this program helps. That story is HERE.

Here’s how the self-help program works:

Potential homeowners submit an application to KCCHA. Qualified applicants join a wait list of people who are qualified to receive federal funding to pay for their loans to own these homes. By qualifying for the federal loans, and by putting in a significant amount of sweat equity into building the homes, the hopeful homeowners are able to get reduced mortgage rates, which afford them a chance at home-ownership — something they might not be able to obtain otherwise.

The list of qualified homeowners must be mostly full before construction can start because people need to commit to building homes in their construction group before the homes start popping up. It’s not a case of build it and they will come. The future homeowners are placed in building groups with 10 homes to a group. KCCHA aims to have four groups building through the course of one year.

The agency received a $1.8 million grant from the USDA for its self-help housing program in the spring of 2009. The grant funding comes every two years, so the agency is 14 months into the current cycle.

They hope to have 89 lots bought and homes under construction with that money. They have completed 38 homes so far (all in Port Orchard). They have another 51 under construction (also in Port Orchard). The hope is at least 72 homes will be complete by the end of the two-year cycle, with the remaining homes to follow. They’re currently ahead of the goal by three homes, according to Casey Pleskun, director of KCCHA’s single family housing program.

The agency is looking for more people interested in its Kingston project: 26 homes off Ohio Avenue, roughly 2,500 feet from the Kingston ferry landing. That project is set to get started in August or September of this year, and will take about one year to complete. Next summer they hope to get work started on the Silverdale housing project, which would be around 50 homes.

To get more information about the projects, or to download an application, visit the website: www.kccha.com

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