ACHANGE Arkansas Coalition of Housing & Neighborhood Growth For Development
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NWRHA Open House featured in

Dated: July 01, 2011

By DAVID HOLSTED | Posted: Friday, July 1, 2011 8:00 am

BERGMAN - A hot summer afternoon in the front yard of a tidy, well-built house was the perfect time and place to sing the praises of sweat equity.

"This is a real life example of how government can leverage its resources with the people who live here, albeit with sweat equity, to live the American dream," said U.S. Congressman Steve Womack, exchanging the House of Representatives for the house of Jack Groves to send his message.

Womack was one of several national, state and local officials who joined some American dreamers at an open house hosted on Wednesday, June 29, by the Northwest Regional Housing Authority (NRHA). Representing Sen. John Boozman were aids Tim Riley and former Boone County judge Mike Moore.

Groves' house, located just off Tar Kiln Road near Bergman, is part of a cluster of new homes, the others being owned by the Knapp, Petty and Turbyfill families. The houses, which were open for inspection, are part of the NRHA's Mutual Self-Help Housing Program. They were built using loans provided by the United States Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program. The mortgages are for 33 years. Payments are based on income and family size. Families selected for the program are required to provide some of the labor, or sweat equity.

The NRHA has helped dozens of people in Baxter, Boone, Carroll, Madison, Marion, Newton and Searcy counties to own their homes.

"Everyone is skeptical, wondering if it's too good to be true," said Vicky Stratton, the Mutual Self-Help Housing Program group coordinator. "Well, it's true."

Stratton presented Groves as an example of how the program helps people achieve the dream of home ownership. A disabled Vietnam-era naval veteran, Groves was living in mobile home, paying $300 to $400 a month in rent, Stratton said. In addition, he was paying $300 a month for heat and still not keeping warm. Now, he lives in his own house, making payments of $350.

Groves' sweat equity payments consisted of just about everything, he said.

"It's well-built," he said of the house he's lived in since 2008. "I saw it myself."

The importance of the support the Self-Help program received from Congress was emphasized by Neal Gibson, the assistant executive director of the NRHA.

"Self-Help Housing is a very significant program," Gibson said, pointing toward Groves' house, "and this is an example of how it works extremely well."

According to Womack, many programs are just a hand-out, but the mentality of the Self-Help program was that of "pick ourselves up by the boot straps."

Riley said that Boozman has toured several Self-Help homes and has expressed amazement at the high quality.

"Every time we get back in the car, his reaction is ‘Wow! I can't believe what these people are getting,'" Riley said.

Groves was asked to say a few words in closing.

With his home in the background, he said, "I'm so proud of what we've accomplished here. I love my home and now hope we can keep this going."


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