SCCAP is asking for the community’s help with affordable housing program.

The Self-Help Housing program needs more lots/land to construct homes on.
Published: Oct. 21, 2021 at 6:23 PM MDT|Updated: Oct. 22, 2021 at 2:10 PM MDT
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FILER, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — South Central Community Action Partnership’s Self-Help Housing program has helped more than 70 families move into new affordable homes since 2010, but a roadblock has occurred that might start preventing the organization from building new homes.

In about a month Rudy Zambrano and Sheila Hernandez will be moving into their new homes at the Herretts Place subdivision in Filer, thanks to the Self-Help Housing program. Hernandez said she was on the waitlist for almost two years before she got the call.

“I felt like a won the lotto, and I’m almost 70 and this is my first home,” Hernandez said.

After taking a look at what will soon be his new house, Zambrano, who was also on the waitlist for quite a while, commented on what he is most excited about.

“Probably a new beginning for me and my son. A fresh start,” Zambrano said.

Through the Self-Help Housing program, qualified families can construct and move into new homes. Families provide 65 percent of the labor themselves by committing 35 hours a week with friend and family volunteers. By putting in the “sweat equity” the family does not have to come up with a down payment and moves into their new homes with instant equity of generally $20,000 to $25,000.

“That’s where the home becomes affordable because they don’t have to pay for that extra labor,” said SCCAP CEO Ken Robinette. “[instead of] having contractors come in and do all that work.”

After the homes are built and appraised, they generally come in around $250,000 to $275,000, and the mortgage payment with taxes and interest included is around $875 and $950 a month.

“That’s less than you can rent a three-bedroom or house for in Twin Falls for,” Robinette said.

He said as of November 12, when they will have a key ceremony for eight program participants, they will have helped 84 families move into newly constructed affordable homes. They currently have another subdivision in Filer with 24 lots they plan to build new homes in.

“We have another eight families that will be breaking ground for their new homes next week,” said Robinette. “We will then be looking for more eligible households, and at this time we do have a waitlist of somewhere between 100 and 120 applicants that have signed up for it.”

This is where the problem begins for Robinette and the Self-Help Housing program. There is a high demand for affordable housing in the area, but after those 24 lots are filled the program doesn’t have any more land/lots to construct new homes on.

“This is where we hope the community can come and help us,” said Robinette. “If a developer or a builder has property, lots that are already built, we would love to talk to you so we can purchase some more lots and keep this program going for families who want to build their own home.”

Robinette said another challenge is they have to purchase land/lots outside the city limits of Twin Falls because the Self-Hep Housing program is a rural program funded through USDA Rural Development.

“We also have requirements that we need city services, water, sewer, gas power, to be able to put our homes in place,” Robinette said.

To help find a solution to their dilemma, Robinette and his organization reached out to the Twin Falls County Commissioners this week for help in finding developers or builders who have land/lots they can purchase.

“We are going to be visiting with all the mayors in our sister counties, and they mayors through the eight-county region in trying to find more land to do more expansion like here in Filer,” said Twin Falls County Commissioner Brent Reinke.

The commissioner said another challenge is going to be the cost associated with purchasing a lot or piece of land, and what the market will allow.

“What we were able to purchase the land for here in Filer through SCCAP it’s going to be much higher in this next round of purchases,” said Reinke. “So that all factors into whether or not those can afford to be purchased and built upon.”

Hernandez said she hopes the community responds because she knows what it’s like not to have a home to call your own.

“[When you are renting an apartment] it hurts your self-esteem. That’s what it does. It makes you feel you are not worthy of a lot of things. But I am worthy now,” Hernandez said with a smile on her face.

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