Colin Evans worked on his future home in the Valley View subdivision off Mill Creek Drive in October 2016. The Housing Authority of Southeastern Utah is hosting a July 17 open house of 10 new Valley View homes built through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development's Mutual Self-Help Program. [Moab Sun News file photo]

DaNae and Atticus Shaner searched for seven months for a house they could afford to purchase in Moab.

Whenever anything popped up in their price range, however, it would sell immediately. Then, they heard about a program where they could contribute their “sweat equity” toward a new home while at the same time learning new skills and getting to know their future neighbors.

The Housing Authority of Southeastern Utah (HASU) is hosting an open house of its latest project: 10 new homes built through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development’s Mutual Self-Help Program. The Shaners will be there to show their new house and answer questions, along with the nine other homebuilders in the Valley View subdivision, located on Bonita Street, off Mill Creek Drive.

The open house will take place on Monday, July 17, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Snacks will be provided. The homebuyers built their 1,500-square-feet houses with guidance from professional contractors over a period of about eight months.

Program participants contribute 30 hours a week toward the construction of the group of homes, ending up with a house that is appraised for much higher than the $220,000 mortgage loan each homebuyer acquires for his or her home. The program is for households that earn 80 percent of the area median income. Participants receive low-interest loans that are below the market rate. For qualifying families, that can be as low as 1 percent.

“People end up with a house with a much smaller monthly payment – sometimes as low as $600,” HASU Executive Director Ben Riley said.

After professional contractors lay the foundation and complete the exterior framing, the homebuyers do the roofing, flooring, interior framing, tiling, paint and trim, and installation of cabinets. Contractors teach people those skills, while the professionals complete specialized plumbing and electrical work.

DaNae Shaner has documented her family’s entire house building experience on her blog: She said building her own house, and seeing the “ton of work that goes into it,” has made her appreciate her home even more.

“The contractors have been really nice to work with,” Shaner said. “They’re really polite. They’ve helped me learn.”

Shaner said her husband did most of the actual construction while she tended to their two children. The other day, 4-year-old Adalynne helped her mom apply spackling paste to some lower walls. Two-year-old Daren helps his mother pick up cardboard and other debris after the builders are done for the day.

“It’s been good for them to see their house being built,” Shaner said. “They absolutely love it. They love going to the house.”

The family will move in this month, after the open house, and after the final USDA inspection. No one moves in until all of the homes are completed.

Since the program began in Moab 15 years ago, 142 homes have been built.

“We’re already building 10 additional homes in the same subdivision,” Riley said. “And we’re taking applications for the next eight homes.”

The housing authority is looking for individuals or families that make at least $25,000 a year (to ensure they can afford the mortgage) and have been employed in the same field for at least two years, Riley said.

It is also currently working on another subdivision in Spanish Valley, which consists of a mixture of affordable rental housing and Mutual Self-Help homes.

Program participants get to choose from four different floor plans. Homebuyers also select their own cabinets, countertops, paint colors, appliances, light and bath fixtures, as well as flooring, to a degree. The houses are stick-built wood frames with stucco exteriors. Each home has three bedrooms; most have two baths, and include attached two-car garages, and front and rear yards.

The program includes deed restrictions to discourage people from taking advantage of the program by selling the house after a short period of time.

“We’ve set up financial incentives for people to stay in the homes longer,” Riley said.

Shaner said she intends to stay in the house for several years.

“I love it; I love the house; I just adore it,” Shaner said. “It’s going to be good for our family.”

“Sweat equity” pays off for new homeowners

“People end up with a house with a much smaller monthly payment – sometimes as low as $600.”

When: Monday, July 17, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where: Valley View homes on Bonita Street

Cost: Free

Information: 435-259-5891

For more information, call 435-259-5891.