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Program helps families own homes


August 16, 2017 | View PDF

Christopher Andersson

Housing Hope staff and the six families that constructed their own homes as part of the Housing Hope program Team HomeBuilding on Aug. 8.

After working for more than a year building their houses, six families got the keys for their Arlington homes as part of a Housing Hope key ceremony on Aug. 8.

The six families were part of local nonprofit Housing Hope's Team HomeBuilding program, which allows low-income locals to do the work of building a house in lieu of a down payment.

"Housing Hope is a nonprofit that serves low-income families in Snohomish and Camano Island," said Sara Haner, marketing and events manager for the local organization.

"This is a really important program for us. Housing Hope is about breaking the cycle of homelessness and we think owning your own home is key to that," she said.

Locals work to build most parts of the house.

"They literally are building it from scratch, from the studs up," said Haner.

"We have experts and professionals to help them, but they are doing all the hard work," she said.

Program manager Ron Peterson said it is a lot of work for the families.

"You sign a contract that says you are going to work 30 hours a week, on top of whatever else it is that you're doing, for as long as it takes, to build the house," he said.

Participants still have to pay a mortgage for the supplies and land, although those with low enough income sometimes qualify for subsidies.

"Most of them are coming from low-income backgrounds. Some of them have come from homelessness," said Haner.

It will be the first home that most of the participants will own.

"For many of them, they may not qualify for a down payment for these homes. Through sweat equity they're able to own their own house," said Haner.

Participant Aaron Murray said he looks forward to the new house.

"I'm excited for it to be done and excited to get in the house," he said. "It's a nice place to live and call home, and also a big investment for the future," he said.

Participant Felicia Wilson said she was also looking forward to having a home for her kids.

"It's going to help my kids have a home they can call their own and not have to move from rental to rental," she said.

"They get to change stuff as they like, such as their own colors on the walls, a place to call their own."

Housing Hope housing development director Bobby Thompson said that he lived in 22 different places growing up.

"As a kid you don't realize when you're picking up to move every 9 or 10 months about the value of a home," he said. "Kids operate in their own world and you just think that is normal."

He congratulated the six families on their work and new homes.

"This is a milestone event for you guys. You're not only setting your families up for stability, it's the greatest gift you can give your kids," he said.

For the participants, 30 hours per week of physical labor in addition to their other responsibilities can be a lot.

Aaron Murray said he expected it would be challenging.

"I thought it was probably going to be a lot of heavy lifting and what not, but it was neat to see the whole process. I really didn't know how any of that would work, like the plumbing and the electrical," he said.

"We knew it was going to be hard work, but as for the knowledge gained, it was fantastic," he said. "That's something we'll use for the rest of our lives."

Aaron's wife, Josie, said it was intimidating and challenging for her at first.

"I didn't know the difference between an eighth and a sixteenth on my tape measure, so I went home and Googled it," she said.

"When you're not used to using a tape measure it all just looks like tiny lines to you."

Eventually though, skills like climbing a ladder to do roofing or using a skill saw became easy for her.

"I got a point where I was like, 'why was this even scary? What was I afraid of?" she said.

"If there's one thing that this program taught me is that it's okay to do something that you feel uncomfortable with," she said.

Wilson appreciated the community aspect of the program.

"It was hard at times, but it was really nice having a whole group of people and everyone getting to work on everyone's house," Wilson said.

Peterson said that all the participants work together throughout the program.

"No one moves in until they're all done," he said. "Not only our house is built, but community is built. Everyone gets to know each other quite well by the time they're done. Sometimes that's a plus, sometimes it's not," he joked.

Wilson is a single mother currently raising four kids. Construction supervisor Gary Murphy said he was proud of the work she put into making a home.

"That's pretty incredible. Not that it wasn't done with some words from her and me," Murphy joked. "I respect you for all the work]because you could have just said you were done."

Housing Hope's Team HomeBuilding program has been going for 25 years in the county now and has helped build 286 houses across the county.

It is supported by federal funds from the United States Department of Agriculture.

More information about the program is available at Housing Hope's website at


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