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Vetter: Making a house a home

(above) Move-in day is later this month for 10 families at the Vetter housing development, including (L-R) Ryleigh Jones, Tucker Eichholtz, dad James Jones, Travis Eichholtz, Zoe Jones and mom Jonelle Jones.  (right) Concrete contractor Charlie Harstad finishes a walk in front of one of the 10 homes getting ready for move-in day. - Brad Camp/Staff Photos
(above) Move-in day is later this month for 10 families at the Vetter housing development, including (L-R) Ryleigh Jones, Tucker Eichholtz, dad James Jones, Travis Eichholtz, Zoe Jones and mom Jonelle Jones. (right) Concrete contractor Charlie Harstad finishes a walk in front of one of the 10 homes getting ready for move-in day.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photos

Homesteaders approach summertime move-ins.

POULSBO — James and Jonelle Jones know the meaning of cramped.

The two lived for the past year in a two-bedroom apartment — with four children.

But on May 21, the Jones have a good thing coming. That day, they and nine other families in the Vetter Homestead neighborhood in Poulsbo will reap the benefits of nearly a year of hard work. For them, May 21 is move-in day.

The Jones are keeping their sights set on the four-bedroom that’s about to be all their own.

“I love the experience,” Jonelle said. “There’s been rough moments, but when it gets really rough we look for the blessings in it all.”

The two are part of a home ownership program offered by the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority. It allows interested home buyers with pre-approved incomes the opportunity to create “sweat equity” by helping to construct their home 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 Poulsbo’s award-winning Austrubruin and Whitney’s Glen neighborhoods, which are also products of the Housing Authority’s program, the first 30 Vetter Homestead families moved into their homes in April 2007. Several more will move in throughout this summer, and two new sets of builders will begin construction soon, said site supervisor Ralph Nettles.

“I love knowing where every stud is,” Jonelle said. She admitted, like many, she knew nothing about home building before starting on hers. Though it’s been bumpy at times, with wet weather and sore muscles, while standing in what will soon be their master bedroom, she and James said the many sacrifices will be worth it.

And the minute they’re all moved in? It’ll be “one big family night,” she said. She’s already bought party poppers and sparkling cider, and said her kids, who range from ages 2 to 11 to two, can run through the hallways as loudly as they like.

There’ll be no adjacent apartment neighbors to keep the noise down for.

“That’s when it’ll sink in,” she said.

KCCHA Public Affairs Specialist Torie Brazitis said the program’s low interest rates, down-payment assistance and income-adjusted loan terms make it an opportune chance for anyone willing to do the labor.

“What’s great about this program is it’s doing home ownership the right way,” she said.

Families and neighbors bond while being instructed on how to both build and care for their homes. The process is reminiscent of an old-fashioned barn raising, one through which a close-knit community is born. Renters can transition into house ownership, or find a way out of substandard housing, she said.

The program’s future in the area, however, has yet to be determined.

Summerset, KCCHA’s next self-help housing development, was shelved after the release of the Federal Housing and Community Development Programs budget appropriations.

In 2008 the programs affiliated with self-help housing were given $1.1 million, but were zapped down to zero for 2009, affectively shutting down the Housing Authority’s next Poulsbo plans.

The money they set aside for the Summerset development will now be used to purchase a smaller, 18-lot parcel for homes in Port Orchard. After that, Brazitis said the future is still unsure. She said the Housing Authority is doing its best to bring the program to the attention of local legislators. The number of those on the waiting list to join is long, she said.

As the program works to find funding, national trend reports highlighting the increase in foreclosures is reflected in Kitsap. Kitsap County Assessor Jim Avery said the area isn’t immune to the country-wide problem.

“It’s definitely on the rise, there’s no question about it,” he said.

According to numbers from his office, 342 homes went up for “forced sale” in 2007. The number of homes for “forced sale” in March 2007 more than doubled in March of this year. Already in the first three months of 2008, 161 homes went up for “forced sale,” according to the numbers.

Brazitis said the housing crisis is just more fuel for their fire, as the Housing Authority fights to keep this affordable housing option alive.

Meanwhile, the Jones are about to turn a brand new house into their home.

“It’s going to be a great place for our children to grow up,” James said.

For more information on the program, visit www.kccha.com.

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