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Vetter Homestead set to add 30 more families

POULSBO — The Vetter Homestead development appeared peaceful at 8 a.m. Monday morning. Hardly any traffic flowed through the streets, and it seemed as if the residents as a whole were resting.

Perhaps they were, and who can blame them? Now the third Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority self-help installment in Poulsbo, those living in Vetter Homestead didn’t just purchase their homes — they built them.

“You’re going to work for an entire year with other families, not just building a house, but a community,” said KCCHA director of public affairs Sarah Lee. “It’s not a handout. It’s one of the most successful home ownership programs in the world.”

KCCHA’s self-help program allows interested homebuyers with pre-approved incomes the opportunity to create “sweat equity” by helping to construct their house and the homes of nine of their neighbors. Instead of a large down payment, 30 work hours are expected each week.

Following in the footsteps of award-winning Austrubruin and Whitney’s Glen, the first 30 Vetter Homestead families moved into their new homes in April. Thirty more are now in the building process.

“There’s no limit to how little you make,” Lee said. “What’s really cool about it is you can get a loan as low as 1 percent over 38 years... It’s amazing how much that makes a difference in monthly payments.”

Though many families come to the process without house-building know-how, construction supervisors are present to walk them through each step, and each family group waits until all 10 houses are finished before moving in.

“After a while, they realize that though the next challenge looks insurmountable, they were able to do the last one,” she said. “No one moves in until everybody is done... they become interdependent.”

Lee said while the houses are modest, they’re appealing to the eye, and hold personal touches unique to each family.

“They’re not McMansions, but they’re pretty,” she said.

KCCHA offers homeownership counselors, even for those whose credit isn’t approved. They provide a process through which those with poor credit can eventually join the program. KCCHA also offers home ownership education to all the families before they move into their new houses. Families can choose from 15 different house styles ranging from two to five bedrooms, and have a palate of colors from which to decide.

“You’re getting to know these people at the same time as you’re doing one of the most important things of your life,” Lee said. “These are the kind of families you want in your city. Not only do they care about their homes, they know how to fix them. This is the way it used to be in America. I’ve helped raise a couple of walls, and you get a lump in your throat. In a way, we should all do this.”

KCCHA Director of Single-Family Housing David Finley said the response from Vetter Homestead families has so far been resoundingly positive.

“They’re so excited to see the fruits of their labor,” he said. “They’ve been anticipating it for a long time.”

For Poulsbo City Councilwoman Kim Crowder and her family, the seven-month process it took to build a home in Austrubriun was well worth it.

“It’s a great project,” she said. “What was neat about it is the fact that you build with your neighbors. It’s a really great sense of community.”

Crowder said many of the houses’ original owners still live in the neighborhood, though some outgrew their homes or moved to a different location. Crowder said Austrubruin is well cared for, and boasts community gardens and neighborhood cleanup days. The homes hold up well because of the love put into them, she said.

“It creates a real pride in ownership,” Crowder said. “When you build your own home, you just put so much care into it.”

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