Latest owner built homes group celebrate progress, nearing completion

Another 10 families are preparing to move into their self-built homes as part of the owner built homes program through NeighborWorks Great Falls.

Last week, the families opened their doors to the community for a celebration of their yearlong effort to build the homes on 39th Avenue Northeast in the Thaniel Addition on the northern edge of the city limits.

Laura Mack is one of the homeowners who participated in the program.

It was always a goal of hers to build her own home and she said it wouldn’t have been possible without the NWGF owner-built program.

This group of home builders started construction in August 2018 and all 10 homes must be completed before anyone in the group can move in. There’s a bit of work left to do on the last two homes, but they’re just about done, she said during last week’s event.

Mack said the program creates a camaraderie among the participants and they’ve worked together to help each other throughout the build.

“You know who’s going to be your neighbor and it’s nice to know your neighbors,” she said.

The program requires the participants to have acceptable credit, two years of dependable income, the ability to commit 30 hours per week for 12 months including help from family and volunteers, a rental history is preferred and income limits exist based on family size.

Mack said as a single working woman, it was challenging to get everything done, but she did most of her hours herself and learned a lot about construction and home maintenance in the process.

“Now I know how to fix things, I can do this,” she said.

She said people in the group would have a knack for certain things or enjoy some tasks more than others. She likes putting up tresses, she said, but didn’t want to be on the roof.

Another family in the group has a young daughter in a wheelchair, and three other young children.

Joshua and Michelle Forrest were able to make modifications to their home’s plans so that their daughter can use the house fully. Their current rental has stairs and she can’t get everywhere without help and a lot of lifting, the Forrests said in the NWGF newsletter.

The NeighborWorks Owner Built Homes program is apart of the national Mutual Self Help Housing program, funded by USDA Rural Development. Through this program qualified buyers earn substantial equity by working with a group of other families to help build their own homes. Their labor is called “sweat equity” and it can make homes affordable. Hard work is the key to this project, along with a desire to work together to build a community and new homes. Learn more about the program, click here.