PROVO, Utah – Equal-i-zer Hitch has a history of giving back. From building parks and donating to food banks, to spending time with veterans, the company has donated hundreds of hours in service. Recently, executives learned about Self-Help Homes, a nonprofit providing quality, affordable housing for first-time home buyers. Upon learning how one day of corporate service could save families three weeks of work, executives were convinced this would be a perfect service project for the company.
“First-time home buyers in Utah are being priced out of the market. With the cost of real estate increasing, and salaries not keeping up with those costs, it is becoming increasingly difficult for families to purchase a first home,” said CEO Jed Anderson. “We wanted to make a difference for the families and help them move into their homes sooner.”
According to Brad Bishop, Self-Help Homes executive director, the Utah-based nonprofit is the only option for any first-time home buyer looking to spend less than $300,000 in Utah County. By involving the future homeowner in the actual construction of the home, buyers can save tens of thousands of dollars, and purchase a home with a $500 down payment.
Homeowners are required to work 35 hours a week, and friends and extended family can help. A home takes between 8-10 months to complete and is move-in ready, complete with appliances upon close. A new home is typically 1,400 finished square feet. Homeowners can choose paint, flooring, exterior colors, and floor plan.
The program encourages future neighbors to work together. All homes in a group need to be finished before any homeowner can move in, and homeowners do about 70% of the manual labor. A group of homes consists of four to ten homes and developments are available in cities across Utah.
Scott Tuttle, construction supervisor for Self-Help Homes, was introduced to the company when he and his wife worked with the nonprofit to purchase their first home. “The hardest thing was finding babysitters while we were working,” said Tuttle. “It took us nine months to finish our group of nine homes in Elk Ridge, and with 35 hours a week of time required, our extended family really had to pitch in and help with our kids.”
Progress employees gathered at the Payson construction site and spent a day framing, roofing, and installing floors in three homes. A few of the employees applied for the program and may have the opportunity to work through Self-Help to build their first home.
“Over 43 percent of Utah County qualifies for a Self-Help home,” said Bishop. Homeowners benefit from instant equity, ranging from $25,000 to as much as $75,000, due to sweat equity and grants from HUD and Utah Housing Authority. This helps homeowners stay above water if the market turns, and has also almost eliminated foreclosures. Only five homes out of the 420 have been involved in a foreclosure and over 80% of the homeowners have stayed in their home since 2000.
“This is one of the most rewarding service projects I have done,” said Steve Binks, production supervisor. “Every family deserves a home.”
Source: Equal-i-zer Hitch press release