The first phase of the Mesa Hills subdivision is complete, and six new residents will proudly be calling the beautiful neighborhood home. An April 23 open house featured the spacious, attractive home of Milka Douglass. City dignitaries praised the efforts of the involved entities, as well pride in the new homeowners.

Donna Birk, U.S.D.A. said they were proud of the program, and her agency works on a number of these projects around the country. She said California is one of the largest beneficiaries of the financial outreach. "Look what we can do when we work together," said Birk, as she walked around the recently finished house in the development on the east side of Kanab.

“One thing that I’ve been pleased about is how much support the community has shown toward the families,” said new Mesa Hills resident Kim Weiss, of how she and husband Ron have been regarded during home construction. She said people would stop and ask her about the progress and offer encouragement when she’d go to the bank or grocery store. 

Mesa Hills is a 47 lot residential development by Color Country Community Housing. The affordable housing program is run through USDA’s Rural Development, which provides funding and financing. The project is a mix of market rate lots, affordable lots and mutual self help lots. The mutual self-help lots program gives buyers the opportunity to earn up to 20% in “sweat equity.”

Buyers in the program begin construction at the same time and helped with each other’s homes. Each family is required to put in 40 hours a week, and no one moves in until all six homes are finished. Some do more than others on all houses, but that''s a good thing according to participants. All involved have work, community and childrens'' schedules, and some have more time to physically labor than others.

Janice Kocher, acting housing program director for Rural Development said seven non-profits provided a grant to provide a construction superintendent for the project.  “The successful program candidate will have income limits in rural areas like Kanab. There is really no construction experience required, just learning and elbow grease,” said Kocher.

Dottie Higley, Special Projects Coordinator for Color Country Community Housing, said she had worked with the six families for the past year on the mutual self-help program. "I''ve seen them grow together as a community. They talk about their friendships."

Higley stressed how successful...and watched the projects are and specifically, this one. There have been inspections from Rural Development, as well as from the City of Kanab, along with a site supervisor and construction manager.

Homeowner Weiss said while there were some challenges, she thinks the development is outstanding. She first checked out the concept at the Kanab City Library. Two program representatives visited with her and told her about the no obligation application. She, husband Ron and their two (at home) children, will soon be moving into their professionally- constructed residence...that they helped build! What could be better than that?

The Star and Shane Stotlar family are also residents soon to be moving in. As she showed me through her home, I made the leap that most of us would dream of living in it. It was class, right down to the refrigerator! "We can move in today-we got our certificate of occupancy."  

"It''s been a good learning experience," said Star. "There''ve been a lot of hurdles you needed to deal with, but we had absolute support of the community."

Stotlar said there were a number of affordable housing projects out there. "But while people don''t know what''s always involved, I think this is one of the best programs going."