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Group helps people build their own homes

MONROE, Wash. (AP) - Myisha Opulencia cried.

Her three children beamed as they stood in their new bedrooms and gazed out the windows. Her fiance, Casi Gonzalez, smiled proudly.

After 11 months of hard work, the family got the keys to their new home, which they helped build from the foundation up.

They and eight other families attended a house-key ceremony Friday in their Monroe cul-de-sac, an event hosted by the Housing Hope Self-Help Team Home-Building Program. Nearly 100 people were on hand to celebrate.

The nine low- and moderate-income families on the team worked with Housing Hope personnel, volunteers and contractors to build each other's homes. They framed each house, hung the doors and sheet rock, hammered down the siding and shingles, installed counter tops and floors and painted, painted and painted.

Gonzalez, 32, was one of the few on the team of homeowners with a construction background. He worked full-time at the building site, helping his neighbors and working on his own two-story house. Most of the homes have a master bedroom and bathroom on the lower floor, along with the kitchen and a dining-living room. Upstairs are two, three or four bedrooms, depending on the model, and another bath.

Gonzalez and Opulencia's kids couldn't wait to move in.

"We've never had our own bedrooms before," said their son, Angel Martinez, 12. His sisters, Taylor Gonzalez, 10, and Gabriella Gonzalez, 4, giggled and danced around their rooms.

"You know that TV ad where the kids find out they are going to Disneyland? Well, that's what it's been like. Big anticipation," said Opulencia, 29.

She and her family were living in a small apartment in Marysville. She works at the prison in Monroe, so their new house is close by. She and Casi Gonzalez enrolled their children in Monroe schools in September.

"We're glad to move in. One week we put in 75 hours at the construction site," Opulencia said. "Now Casi has time to find a job. We have weekends as a family and a regular schedule to look forward to. Owning a home is all we've ever wanted for our kids."

Opulencia and her neighbor Chelsey McGee, 28, chose very little wall-to-wall carpet for their new homes. The laminate floors look like wood, the countertops look like marble and the appliances are black and chrome.

McGee and her husband, Michael, have four young children, who also could not wait to move in.

Down the street, Sterling Adams, 60, formerly of Everett, and his son Darris, 15, showed off their new home, which features a masculine color scheme. Because of the energy-saving heating system installed, Adams said he expects his utility bills to be low.

"This is my first brand-new home," Adams said. "We're going to like it here. Monroe is nice because it is centrally located in the county and in the region."

Ron Peterson, manager of the team home-building program at Housing Hope, said pride of ownership is why the Everett-based nonprofit agency is involved in self-help housing.

"Now people in this neighborhood have a place to plant vegetables and flowers. They can hang their pictures on any wall they want," Peterson said. "They built their houses, but they also built a little community. It makes for safety and stability."

In lieu of a down payment, each family put in around 1,600 hours building the nine houses. Monthly mortgage payments of $800 to $1,400 are based on a sliding scale that takes into account family income and family size, Peterson said.

Funding for the Housing Hope's team house-building projects comes from the federal Department of Agriculture's rural housing funds, along with city, county and state help. Ten more homes currently are under construction on the other side of Monroe near the fairgrounds, Peterson said.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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