PO residents celebrate completion of “sweat equity” houses

Months of long, hard work have truly paid off for some of Port Orchard’s newest homeowners through a program that builds houses and creates lasting community bonds.

Housing Kitsap’s Mutual Self-Help Homeownership Program has existed for 49 years, providing individuals and families in Kitsap County an alternate, cost-effective route to home ownership. Through the program, the typical down payment is paid in the work one does to assist in the building of their house and the houses of other neighborhood applicants.

This “sweat equity” takes a tremendous amount of dedication, as the work spans several months and can require as many as 35 hours of work per household each week. However, the method drops a significant portion of the cost to what is a brand-new house.

March 24 marked the move-in day for eight new homeowners in the Sherman Ridge neighborhood off Melcher St, a day that the program’s director Dean Nail said was a major cause for celebration.

“Everyone should congratulate themselves on the hard work,” he said. “At the end of the day, you have quite something here. You have a house that you can afford; that is clean, efficient, doesn’t need anything.”

“It feels like our marathon is over,” said Mallory Holquist, one of the new homeowners in the community. “Like I said earlier, I’d do it again; ten out of ten.”

While the reward of a new house is more than enough for many, the assisted building for one another’s houses also created a strong bond within the group of eight.

“Meeting as strangers, we became more like family,” said Alicia Wanner to her new neighbors while holding back tears. “We all have learned so much about ourselves and each other, and I am so grateful to have worked beside you all.”

Natasha Keolanui called what she has now unbelievable. She recalled simply looking to provide a better quality of life for her children, saying “This (community) is not something I could have ever imagined outside of my own family.”

Mayor Rob Putaansuu, who attended the key ceremony along with three of the city’s council members, also shared a few words. While congratulating the families that helped each other build, he also acknowledged the dedication of Nail to the program.

“During our darkest moments, Dean’s self-help program was always a bright shining light of hope for families in need of housing,” he said.

Putaansuu then revealed a Key to the City of Port Orchard, which he awarded to Nail for his 30-plus years of work with Housing Kitsap.