But, is it affordable?
That’s the big question when local folks start dreaming about homeownership in Haywood County.
So many factors affect the affordability of owning a home such as living wage paid employment, job availability and transportation.
Patsy Davis, executive director of Mountain Projects, Inc., recognizes these challenges.
As a nonprofit community leader, Davis is always searching for successful ways to increase access to affordable housing and ease the burdens of limited transportation for working individuals and families.
May 2018 marked the celebratory milestone of 51 brand new, Self-Help homes built under Davis’ leadership.
For 17 years, Mountain Projects has actively partnered with USDA Rural Development to build affordable houses under the Mutual Self-Help Housing Program.
Mountain Projects has been awarded four USDA grants over the years to oversee the many building projects that were required to finish 51 homes.
“The real winners are the motivated homeowners," said Self Help Coordinator Anna Rogers. "They have worked hard physically and emotionally to accomplish their goal of homeownership. It’s rare to find someone who can qualify for a USDA mortgage, follow the long-term plan to build a house and put in the hours of sweat equity. It is a multi-layered investment that builds immediate value for their home and their future.”
According to USDA Rural Development’s website, by working in partnership with trusted local organizations, the Mutual Self-Help program provides grants to qualified organizations to help them carry out local self-help housing construction projects.
Through the program, grant recipients supervise groups of very-low- and low-income individuals and families as they construct their own homes in rural areas. The group members provide most of the construction labor on each other’s homes, with technical assistance from the organization overseeing the project.
This construction labor or sweat equity provided by the USDA mortgaged homeowners, reduces the mortgage and results in a more affordable monthly payment.
When researching the affordability of being able to live and thrive in Western North Carolina rural area, Davis and others are looking at the bigger picture, too.
Similar local topics are echoed throughout the state. Vocalizing issues and solutions statewide, like at the 2017 North Carolina Affordable Housing Conference in Raleigh, offers the chance to bring likeminded leaders to the roundtable discussion of Housing affordability.
Reliable transportation is a big barrier for many workers employed in rural areas. Mountain Projects’ own Public Transit system currently runs Monday – Friday from 6 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. to help citizens get to work, go to school and to keep the independent means to attend medical appointments and run other important errands.
Transit Director Chuck Norris and Davis are working toward a future goal of established bus routes with extended hours to better accommodate the second and third-shift work force. This leap forward for Haywood County residents will allow access to employment and provide reliable transportation to better ensure stable employment.
So, is it affordable? It definitely can be with agency partnerships like USDA Rural Development and Mountain Projects that strive to create real, tangible progress.
There’s not just one solution to bringing more affordable housing to the communities. Each county and every town have their own barriers to overcome and opportunities to identify.
Mountain Projects wants to see more local residents have the chance at home ownership. More affordable homes are being planned under the Self-Help program while other new options will become available in the very near future.
To apply for programs in Haywood and Jackson Counties, to volunteer or support call 828-452-1447. Visit them at www.MountainProjects.org to see all programs including Self-Help Housing.
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