PASCOAG, RI, OCTOBER 31, 2016 – On Thursday, November 3rd at 10:30am on George Eddy Drive in Pascaog, RI, seven families will cut the ribbons on their new homes, making their dreams of homeownership a reality. These affordable homes were built through the US Department of Agriculture’s Mutual Self-Help Housing Program, and the generous support of Navigant Credit Union, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston, the RI Housing Resource Commission Building Homes RI bond-funded program, NeighborWorks America, Rhode Island Housing HOME program, LISC Rhode Island, and the Housing Assistance Council.
For the past year, construction has filled the free time of the Cole, Guilmain, Keegan, Lowe, Pepler, Ryan, and Taylor families. All day Saturdays and Sundays and two evenings a week, these families have been out on George Eddy Drive, literally building their dream homes through the USDA’s Mutual Self-Help Housing Program. Through this program, families work to build almost 65% of their own homes. The sweat equity cuts the costs of each home nearly in half, making the dream of homeownership truly affordable for low- and moderate- income families.
Paul Blais, the construction supervisor for the project, credits his 9 years as a woodshop teacher as the perfect foundation for this work. Most supervisors would be intimidated by the prospect of building 7 homes with a crew of novices, but for Paul, this was the perfect challenge.
“I had a homeowner who was afraid of everything. The tools. The ladders. Everything…. To see people who didn’t know which end of the hammer to hold, go from that to sheet rocking an entire house in two days was incredible.” Paul Blais, Construction Supervisor
The 7 families were chosen through an application process, and selected based on meeting income, credit, and employment criteria as set by the USDA. All families make between 50% and 80% of the Area Media Income for Providence County, connecting the opportunity of homeownership with families for which this is rarely a reality.
“I never thought I would be able to afford my own home in my own community, the NeighborWorks program allowed that to happen for me.” Amy Pepler, new homeowner
The Ribbon Cutting marks the completion of the first 7 homes of a 30 home development on a cul de sac built by NWBRV known as Fernwood. Each home contains 3 bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms, built on 0.3 acres of land, and surrounded by preserved open space. Homeowners chose their home design, colors, and finishes.
Reminiscent of the church and barn raisings of yesteryear, families work collectively, building one another’s homes in phases. The result is an ideal community of close-knit neighbors who know one another, care about one another, and have the skills necessary to tackle just about any future home repair need that may come their way.
According to new homeowner Thea Fielding-Lowe, “I like being able to build a community together beyond the bricks and mortar. It is exciting to think about the number of conversations over coffee we will all have together as we stand in the street admiring our homes and reminiscing, ‘I don’t know how we did it, but we did.’ We will attend birthday parties, BBQs, or get together for dinner. We will literally watch each other’s children grow up.”
“We supported each other through the building process. Encouraging one another when times got rough. I believe that friendship will carry on and be the foundation of our new neighborhood.” Thea Fielding-Lowe, new homeowner
Construction Supervisor Paul Blais couldn’t have nicer things to say about this team of homeowners, “because of the group, and the dedication of the people that were chosen, this project has been the best and most rewarding thing that I’ve done in my lifetime.” Paul Blais, Construction Supervisor
Yes on 7 RI
These 7 families benefited considerable from Building Homes Rhode Island, the state program through the Housing Resources Commission created thanks to the majority of voters in 2006 that approved a $50 million bond to create affordable apartments and starter homes throughout the state. On November 8th Rhode Island voters will have another opportunity to dedicate funds to similar construction efforts. Voting “yes” on question 7 will ensure the future of affordable housing in Rhode Island.