Baxter County sees launch of self-help program - Huddleston family home is first to be built
By JANET NELSON
GASSVILLE — The Brian Huddleston family of Mountain Home had quite a lot of company Wednesday at the site of his family’s new home on Opportunity Street.
The site, located at Gassville’s Arkansas Estates subdivision, is the first home to be built in Baxter County under the Mutual Self-Help Housing Program offered by the Northwest Regional Housing Authority.
“If it wasn’t for this program, we probably would never be able to afford a house,” said Huddleston, who has two daughters, 17 and 14. Families who qualify for the self-help program work on the house providing sweat-equity and pay for the house through a loan – not from a bank, but from government lending organization called Rural Development, formerly Farmers Home Administration.
City, region, state and federal officials gathered Wednesday to see the beginnings of this home and also to celebrate it as a milestone in this housing program: It is the 100th home to be built in the six-county area of the NWRHA, headquartered at Harrison. The visit also helped mark National Homeowners Month, celebrated in June.
Among other guests present were Area USDA Rural Develop ment officials Johnny James, Matt Hudson and Pat Keller, as well as Tim Riley of Little Rock and Hillrey Adams of Mountain Home from the offices of U.S. Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Gassville Mayor Jeff Braim.
Baxter and Madison counties were added to the regional group in 2011, said Neal Gibson, assistant executive director of the NWRHA, and he expects Stone, Izard and Fulton counties will be added in the fall. Boone, Carroll, Marion and Searcy have been in the program since 2004.
|Cheryl Ivy, Arkansas Single Housing Program Director, (from left) shares a light moment with Brian
Huddleston and his daughter, Taylor Huddleston, Wednesday at a site in Gassville where the
Huddlestons’ new home is being built. The home is the first to be constructed in Baxter County under the Mutual Self-Help Housing Program sponsored by the Northwest Regional Housing Authority. KEVINPIEPER/THE BAXTER BULLETIN
The self-help housing program concept began in California in the 1960s, Gibson said. There are now five selfhelp housing programs in Arkansas, at Harrison, Russellville, Fort Smith, Texarkana and Nashville. “We are proud of the Mutual Self-Help program because of the impact it has on the homeowners and the community,” said Cheryl Ivy, director of Arkansas’s Single Family Housing in Little Rock. Ivy said the program helps provide a quality home, allowing residents to graduate from renters to homeowners, and the community gains from having growth in housing.
When homes are built through the Mutual Self-Help Housing Program, no down payment is required, but homeowners build up sweat-equity in their homes by contributing their own work during construction. Interest on the loan amount, now approximately 3.25 percent, is subsidized for qualified borrowers and remains fixed for the 33-year length of the loan, said Vickey Stratton, director of the program. The income guidelines are different in each county, but a family of four with income of $34,000 would be eligible to participate in the selfhelp housing program, Stratton said.
Each homeowner is the contractor, with backup and construction expertise from the Housing Authority. “Like any builder, families find their own lots,” Gibson told The Bulletin .
“That’s the slow part.” Homes are Certified Energy Star at the 3.0 level Gibson added.
Process Groups of six to eight families form when applicants in one county or adjacent counties become eligible for a self-help housing loan, and they are educated on home ownership, budgeting and financial literacy together. “We teach them to be homeowners,” said Gibson.
During the period of home construction, the groups help work on on another’s homes. “We help them every step of the way, teaching them how to do everything,” Gibson said.
Ken McDowell, executive director of NWRHA at Harrison, said home ownership counseling as well as financial literacy presentations are also available to clubs, organizations, schools and churches as half-day workshops and programs.
Anybody who has questions about home financing, including those in foreclosure, also can visit the NWRHA office in Harrison or telephone Troy Clark at (870) 741-1144 to learn what federal programs can help them, McDowell said.
For more information about the Mutual Self-Help Housing Program, see the NWRHA website at
www.nwregionalhousing.org for general information and the program’s application (intake form), telephone program director Vickey Stratton or Betty Bing at (870) 741-5522.
|Brian Huddleston, 44, and his daughter, Taylor Huddleston, 17, look over house plans Wednesday at a site in Gassville where the Huddlestons’ new home is being built. The home is the first to be constructed in Baxter County under the Mutual Self-Help Housing Program sponsored by the Northwest Regional Housing Authority. KEVIN PIEPER/THE BAXTER BULLETIN|