Project helps families build a future

Oct 20, 2014

Interfaith Housing Services and four families broke ground Monday in South Hutchinson on what, for this area, is a new way of building homes.

The families will help each other, and professional contractors, build their homes – three near Avenue C and Poplar Street in South Hutchinson and one in Partridge. None will move in until all the homes are finished next spring.

For their contribution of 20-30 hours of labor each week, the new home owners – Michelle and Stephen Dixon, Dwayne and Brandy Mitts, Stacey Thomas and Sadie Ward and their families – will earn “sweat equity,” essentially a down payment worth about $30,000 toward the cost of their $150,000 homes.

“These owners won’t know what they’re going to do that day,” said Mark Borecky, whose company will serve as construction supervisor. “We’ll have a schedule, of course. But they’ll all show up and work on that house that day, and then the next one another day.”

Borecky said that along the way they’ll be teaching members of the families how to make minor repairs and maintain their homes in good condition.

Interfaith’s “Mutual Self-Help Housing Program,” supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is restricted to communities with population less than 35,000. It’s new in Hutchinson, but the City of Liberal has had a mutual self-help program with USDA assistance for several years.

“I looked at this program years ago, and at the time the program was completely closed,” Interfaith Housing President and CEO John Scott said. “Then about a year ago, USDA Rural Development came to us and said they had a project they wanted to transfer to Interfaith Housing if we wanted it. And if you know me, you know I don’t say no.”

All the houses in Reno County will have about 1,250 square feet and have three bedrooms and two bathrooms on the main floor. One house at Avenue C and Poplar will be slab construction, but the other three houses will have an unfinished basement, large enough for two more bedrooms, another family room and rough-ins for a third bathroom.

Participants in the program must fall within low-income guidelines. A family of four, for example, cannot have income exceeding $44,000 a year. Three more lots, donated by the Partridge Community Church, are available to income-qualifying families in Partridge.

However, Interfaith and the City of South Hutchinson also are putting together a similar mutual self-help program in which eligibility will be extended to moderate income families (up to $96,000 for a family of four). Those houses will be identical to the first four but be built in a new subdivision called Southern Hills, south of Avenue D and west of Lionette Fields, where 20 acres is being subdivided into lots for 62 homes.

“This is just the beginning,” Interfaith’s Housing Director Julia Westfahl said at the ground-breaking.

South Hutchinson City Administrator Matt Stiles said the city should be pouring concrete for streets in Southern Hills next March and begin building the first 20 homes in Phase I of the project soon after.

“It’s a great opportunity to grow our community,” Stiles said.

Scott said that eventually he hopes to expand the program beyond RenoCounty.

“Our focus right now is Reno County,” Scott said. “We’re in Partridge with one of these builds, but we’d like to see other communities in RenoCounty get involved before we go out too far. We have a lot to learn.”

Hutchinson News