Stop dreaming of owning a home, try building one

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If you've ever dreamed of owning a home, but lack the financing, one Carson City group may be able to help put you into your own home.

Citizens for Affordable Homes Inc., a self-help housing authority serving Northern Nevada, is looking for 12 families or individuals willing to work to build their own home in Gardnerville.

Under supervision of a construction supervisor, program participants work at least 35 hours per week building their home. Al Kramer, CAHI chairman, said the work is considered "sweat equity."

"They have a down payment in the form of labor," Kramer said. "Instead of 10 percent down, they're coming in with 500 hours of hard work. The question for people is, 'Will they work their down payment off?' There are no freebies in this. They still have mortgage to meet when construction is done."

There are several requirements for the program. Applicants must be in the low-income range, have a steady income, be willing to work the 35 hours per week and have a good credit history.

Finding people for the program isn't hard, Executive Director Art Seavey said. The group has a list 600-people long of interested participants, but the requirement of good credit is a stumbling block for many people.

"If people have an interest in owning a home, they have to deal with credit eventually," Seavey said. "We can help get their credit cleaned up."

Kramer said many people don't think they can qualify for the program because of their income, which isn't necessarily the case. The Nevada Housing Division defines very low income for a family of one in Douglas County as $19,650, while the low income mark is $31,450. A four person family is set in the very low income group at $28,100 a year, low income at $40,450. Low income rates vary in each county.

"People can't believe what we're doing," Kramer said. "They think they can't qualify. Well, they can."

Citizens for Affordable Housing is a federally-funded program. Grants come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development that help potential homeowners secure affordable mortgages. The process starts with affordable housing administrators who first buy and improve property before selling lots to potential homeowners. CAHI staff deals with all land acquisition, site development, grant and loan processing, house design, permitting, construction cost estimates, subcontracting, construction supervision and home owner counseling.

In return, families accepted into the program work in groups of eight families or more to build a neighborhood, not just a home. Participants receive at least six construction classes and harder construction projects such as plumbing, drywall and electrical are contracted out by the affordable housing group. They are required to own their own tools and have good credit.

The group has built 15 homes in Dayton and five in Fallon, and Kramer said CAHI is always on the look out for land and construction materials for homes.

Kramer is Carson City's treasurer. He got involved with CAHI about four years ago when looking for a volunteer opportunity that supported personal responsibility.

"When you're an elected person, you have implied duties outside of your office," he said. "You're a civil servant and you should be out there serving. To me, it's the idea that it's not a gift. It's an opportunity."

Seavey has worked with self-help housing groups throughout the west and said he enjoys seeing people gain and create a greater sense of community.

"Doing self help-housing changes peoples lives," Seavey said. "It requires hard work and a commitment, but when they're done, they have this tremendous sense of pride and accomplishment."


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