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Do-it-yourself home program meets mixed resuls elsewhere

Hillsboro neighbors still concerned about how homes would fit in

Staff writer

A program in which homebuyers would work together to build one another’s homes has met with mixed results in other communities and generated concern among proposed neighbors in Hillsboro.

Mennonite Housing of Wichita is interested in bringing its “mutual self-help” program to Willow Glen subdivision. The program has proven popular in Valley Center, but interest has been low in Hesston the Star-Journal has learned.

Willow Glen was chosen as a possible site because the city owns nine vacant lots in the subdivision.

Willow Glen Homeowners’ Association members worry the program would reduce property values, association member David Mathis said when the proposal was introduced.

After Mennonite Housing’s president, Andy Bias, spoke Aug. 5, association President Melissa Batterton said she had fewer concerns, but some remained.

The homes wouldn’t look out-of-place in Willow Glen but are smaller than the average home in the subdivision. Existing homes average between 1,300 and 1,800 square feet, she estimated.

Valley Center had a lot of success with the program, Valley Center City Clerk Kristine Polian told the Star-Journal. A 25-house development recently was completed, and all of the homes were built with the self-help program.

More than 100 more homes are planned, Polian said.

Hesston hasn’t had much demand for the self-help program, City Administrator John Carder told the Star-Journal. Other Mennonite Housing programs have had more success there.

Little information can be gleaned about how the program would affect property values in Willow Glen. Development in Valley Center has been in new subdivisions, and Hesston programs have been in neighborhoods with modular homes.

Houses in the program are appraised at an average of $145,000, Bias said. By participating in construction, buyers reduce cost by $10,000 to $20,000.

Participants cannot exceed a maximum household income. For a family of four in Marion County, the maximum income is $41,850 a year.

Mennonite Housing partners with U.S. Department of Agriculture for the program, which has built 100 new homes since it began 10 years ago, Bias said.

According to Bias, families do 65 percent of the work. Subcontractors do technical and cosmetic work.

Six families usually participate in a project, working 20 hours per week to construct new houses at a reduced cost.

Homes range in size from 900 to 1,100 square feet. They have two to three bedrooms; one or two baths; a two-car garage; and a full, unfinished basement. The company does not put identical houses adjacent to one another, Bias said.

Participants must work 20 hours per person per week, or 40 hours per family per week. A single person participating would need one or more sponsors to help them reach the 40-hour threshold.

The company budgets a construction time of seven or eight months. The first group of homes took more than a year, but one project was finished in four months.

Houses from the program generally are energy efficient. Mennonite Housing worked on 26 homes in Greensburg, learning a lot about energy efficiency in the process, he said.

At the meeting Aug. 5, Batterton asked Bias if there were any landscaping requirements to the program.

Bias indicated that each home would have a seeded lawn and two trees. Anything more would be up to the families, provided they follow homeowners’ association requirements.

Batterton asked whether the company tried to make the homes fit the appearance of existing homes. Bias said it did.

Bias circulated photos of homes constructed in the self-help program.

Byron Adrian of Mennonite Housing individually met with interested people to determine whether they qualified for the program.

For more information about participating in the program, contact Andy Bias at (316) 942-4848 or abias@mhrsi.org.

Last modified Aug. 12, 2009

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