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Families break ground on ‘sweat equity’ homes
POULSBO — Families, soon to be neighbors, gathered on a grassy hill in Poulsbo last week, breaking ground on their first homes. For some, the wait was only a few months; others had patiently bided their time for years.
Housing Kitsap held a groundbreaking and welcoming ceremony for its newest self-help development, Talon Glen — 20 home lots at Caldart Avenue and Forest Rock Hills, sandwiched between Snowberry Bungalows and Chateau Ridge developments.
USDA Rural Development awarded the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority with a $2.2 million Mutual Self-Help Housing grant in September. The grant funded recruitment, screening, loan packaging and other assistance for applicants. USDA also helps subsidize the loans, which for the Talon Glen families will be about $190,000 each. Appraised home values in Poulsbo are about $250,000.
All soon-to-be homeowners said they could not have afforded to own their own home without this program.
Katie Allen works as a dental hygienist, and is following in her sister’s footsteps. Kristina Allen recently moved in to her self-help home in the Caitlyn heights development in Silverdale. Katie helped with some of the construction and saw Housing Kitsap as a good opportunity to own her own home as well.
Kristina said she had been struggling to find housing for more than a year, as a single mother of three children. The Allen sisters come from Jefferson County, but saw job opportunities in Kitsap. Kristina said she “jumped at the chance” to own her own home by building it.
“It’s a great experience, definitely worth it,” she said. “There are moments it [doesn’t] seem like its worth it but it is.”
Jacinta Nall has been living in a condo with her five-year-old daughter, and said between her income, car payments and student loans, wouldn’t have been able to afford a home without this program.
“We are extremely lucky and very, very, very happy to be able to do this,” Nall said. She said she’ll cut back her work at The Point Casino so she can work on the house on Fridays and Saturdays, and still carve out some quality time with her daughter.
“I’m looking forward to moving in,” she said. “Having my own place…just for me and my girl.”
The majority of the “payment” comes in sweat equity. Each new homeowner must put in 30 hours of work on their house a week, and 16 hours must come from the homeowner (the remaining hours come from help from family and friends). In all, the 10 families will put in 27,000 hours of sweat equity.
Housing Kitsap also provides training for construction and maintenance. Future homeowner Amy Thompson said, “It’s kind of exciting to be able to fix…things in my house without calling a professional.”
“They will know every nook and cranny of their home,” said Tony Caldwell, executive director of Housing Kitsap. This is the fourth self-help build in Poulsbo, and the agency has helped 1,600 families become homeowners, Caldwell said.
Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson said the neighbors did a “remarkable job” coming together to talk about their concerns. When the City Council approved the final plat for Talon Glen in February, many surrounding neighbors spoke up about their concerns with Talon Glen’s impact. Some thought the possibility of rentals would decrease home values, or that Talon Glen wouldn’t adhere to neighborhood standards, known as Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions. For example, the houses at the top of the development will be shorter, to protect everyone’s view.
County Commissioner Rob Gelder, who also sits on Housing Kitsap’s board, said he’s excited this project will create community.
“With your help and hard work, from this dirt is going to grow foundations and walls and roofs,” Gelder said to the new homeowners.
Construction is set to begin in July.
Housing Kitsap accepts applications year-round. For information, contact Juanita Clark at (360) 535-6140.