Home DIY program offers sweat equity – The Guam Daily Post

While workforce challenges continue to impact the construction industry, an innovative program initiated by the Micronesian Community Development Corp. (MCDC) taps into an alternative labor source in building affordable low-cost housing on island – the homeowners and their sweat equity.

During the weekend, 13 prospective homeowners converged at the project site tucked behind the Department of Youth Affairs compound in Mangilao. Under the supervision of the technical staff, the homeowners, mostly single parents who are looking forward to finally owning a new home, worked in teams to learn new skills – including reading maps and calculating property boundaries.

According to Carlos Camacho, MCDC director, the prospective homeowner members provide most of the construction labor on all of the 13 homes. Potentially, he said, the model could be used as a way to build more affordable homes on Guam, even with existing worker shortage.

“You’ve seen a lot of statements from government officials, private sector industry officials and the construction trade who are saying that the impact of the H-2 labor issue will bring the cost of constructing homes up by two folds. Of course those are statements that are made by professionals and we adhere to that. We know that that is a dilemma right now,” he said.

MCDC applied for the Mutual Self-Help Program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which allows very-low- and low-income individuals and families to own a home through sweat equity. The models range from a two-bedroom, 1,200-square-foot home, to a four-bedroom, 1,800-square-foot home. With subsidized payment, the homeowners pay around $500 a month for their home.

“Basically, it provides a methods of construction of affordable homes where the families come to build their homes,” he said.

According to Camacho, the homeowners produce 65 percent of the labor cost of the home construction, while the other 35 percent is done by a professional tradesman.

“They do the electrical, plumbing and roof, the important parts of the home, to ensure it is done professionally,” he said.


Home DIY program offers sweat equity

SIGHTING: Tracy Cantimbuhan, with the help of project manager Bruce Williams, takes a sighting to determine the boundary line of the lot they are working on. Micronesia Community Development Corp. is working with low-income families to help provide affordable housing on Guam. David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

Building a community

Camacho said MCDC kicked off the program last month and assigned 20 tasks for the homeowners and their volunteers. He said that by building as a team, the homeowners are creating a community.

“Of course, there’s going to be a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Remember, these families have zero skills in the construction trade. This is the first time that they have read a map and a plan,” Camacho said.

“And they bring their volunteers – their father, brothers, cousins and their kids. As long as they are 16 years old and above, they qualify. Those other family members participate and help them build their home.”

One of the recipients of the program is Manns Santos, a systems engineer with DOCOMO Pacific. When asked what spurred him to participate in the program, Santos said, “Having my son made me want to apply for it. I want everything set for him.”

Another program participant, Tracy Cantimbuhan, who works at Calvo’s SelectCare, said she looks forward to finally moving into her own home, adding that the payments are even cheaper than what she is currently paying for in monthly rent.

Deanna Garcia, who works at the Department of Administration, said she feels lucky to have been given the opportunity to participate in the program. “Neighbors building the neighborhood is a good thing because we are all getting to know each other.”

“We want the families to learn each step of the process 13 times or 20 times or 50 times. So as they do it together as a group, they get to be more efficient, they get to understand the construction trade and that at the end of the day, we are building a community,” Camacho said.

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