POULSBO — On May 17, while children played on the nearby playground, about 60 public officials, neighbors, and friends and family members gathered under a white tent canopy in the Summerset Homes neighborhood off Viking Way to see Poulsbo’s nine newest homeowners officially receive the keys to their new homes.
On hand to help them celebrate were Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson, members of the Poulsbo City Council and state Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo.
“Welcome to Poulsbo,” said Erickson.
Appleton added, “I’m so impressed by the work you’ve done … your dedication. It’s going to be a flourishing neighborhood.”
But these weren’t just any happy, new homebuyers. These proud owners had made their down payment in sweat and blisters, doing about 65 percent of the work on their new homes themselves.
Determination and hard work
The new key holders had built their new homes with the assistance of Housing Kitsap, working through the USDA Rural Development Self-Help Housing Program. Since 1971, that program has helped build more than 50,000 homes across the U.S., according to its blog.
Through the program, homeowners can save money and earn “sweat equity” toward their homes by doing about 65 percent of the work themselves. Groups of nine to 12 families pool their efforts and each family spends a minimum of 40 hours a week working together on all of their homes — no one moves into their home until every house in their group is completed.
When the last of the sweat equity homes in the subdivision are completed this fall, Housing Kitsap site supervisors will have helped hard-working new homeowners build 31 sweat equity homes since the project started in September, 2015. Housing Kitsap’s first Poulsbo project was 98 homes at Vetter Homestead. That project was started 11 years ago and is completed. One of Housing Kitsap’s latest projects, 12 homes in Lola Meadows off Barrett Road in Kingston, broke ground Dec. 17, 2016.
No experience necessary
With professional assistance, families help pour foundations, frame their homes, install electrical wiring, hang doors and windows and lay flooring and paint. Their sweat equity qualifies as their down payment.
Once completed, USDA Rural Development provides the families with mortgages through the Single Family Housing Direct Loan Program.
Proud “sweaty equity” participants have identified several benefits that come with helping build your own home.
First, they saved about $60,000 compared to the cost of an identical commercially-built home.
A second benefit is that participants learned technical skills that are invaluable for any homeowner. No experience is necessary for those wishing to build a “sweat equity” home. Besides hands-on training with the site supervisor, sub-contractors assist with the more difficult parts of pouring the foundation, framing, painting, installing windows and doors, electrical, heating and air-conditioning, and plumbing.
Third, because the families helped one another build each other’s homes, there is a built-in (no pun intended) sense of community.
“You know your neighbors and their abilities,” said one earlier sweat equity homeowner. “You’re friends. It’s not like that when you just buy a house in a subdivision and move in.”
To learn more about the USDA Rural Development Self-Help Housing Program, go to www.blogs.usda.gov and search for “sweat equity.”
— Terryl Asla is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.