with her daughters, Cierra, 10, left, and Corrie, 8, at their new
Reems Creek community home earlier this month.
“Surprise don’t get much better than this.”
For 10 months, Treva Williams and her 19-year-old daughter, Kade’sha, kept a whale of a secret from Williams’ two
younger daughters, Cierra, 10, and Corrie, 8.A new house.
“We built it from the ground up,” Williams said, cooking dinner in the
kitchen of her new north Buncombe home as Cierra and Corrie set the
A supervisor at the Mountain Area Health Education Center,
Williams, 40, participated in the Mountain Housing Opportunities
Self-Help Home Ownership program, which provides low- or
moderate-income families a pathway to homeownership.
Participants reduce their mortgage payments through “sweat equity” — working on their home and others in the development on weekends.”We started in November of 2012 and worked through August of 2013 — in the cold,
in the rain, you name it,” Williams said. “We had two contractors on site giving us instructions, step by step.”They put in 17 hours a week, usually working Saturdays and Sundays.
Going through a divorce at the time, Williams told her younger daughters she and their older sister were working on “a project” on the weekends when
they went to stay with their dad.They kept the secret until August, when they blindfolded the younger girls and took them inside the two-story home in the Compass Park subdivision.”It was the hardest thing for me to keep this away from them,” Williams said. “I’m big
on surprises.”When the girls removed the blindfolds, they didn’t know what to make of their surroundings. Until Williams told them it was their house.Then the girls dashed upstairs to claim their rooms.”It still brings tears to my eyes,” Williams said, choking
up. “To be able to provide that for my daughters. I couldn’t have done it without my daughter’s help and without God’s help. If it can happen to me, it can happen for somebody else.
“Williams’ older daughter attends college at Amada Musical Arts School in Los Angeles now, but for 13 years she, her two sisters and their
parents shared a two-bedroom apartment in MHO’s River Glen
Apartments. Williams received information about the Self-Help
program in the mail and jumped at the chance.
The program combines
the sweat equity of multiple families helping build each others’
homes with financing from the U.S. Department of Agriculture,
NeighborWorks America, and Buncombe County.
The girls love the new house, with its spacious living room and laminate wood floors. And
they like not having to share a bed anymore.”We can have our own
room, and I don’t have to sleep with that person,” Cierra said,
pointing at her sister.”Me either,” Corrie chipped in. “She’s such kicker.”Williams, who has a strong Christian faith, thanks Mountain Housing Opportunities and God for her blessings. She knows how tough the Asheville housing market is.”Like in most cities, you have a cost of living and your income that would balance out,”
Williams said, gesturing with her hands for emphasis. “In our area,
the cost of living is very high, but the income is low. It’s hard to raise a family and make it without three or four jobs. “Mountain Housing Opportunities homeowners have built 26 homes so far in the Self-Help program in Leicester, Black Mountain, and the Reems Creek
area of Weaverville. Six more are under construction in Reems Creek, and the next neighborhood will be in Swannanoa. More than 700
hours per homeowner of construction labor creates “sweat equity,”
which serves as down payment on the home, so there is no cash down
payment required. Homeowners in MHO’s Self-Help program typically
have $25,000-$30,000 of equity in their home when they complete
construction and move in.MHO Executive Director Scott Dedman said
homeowners in the Self-Help program “accomplish a Herculean task to
build their own homes.”
“Treva’s story is especially inspirational because her oldest daughter, Kade’sha, worked so closely with her
throughout construction, and then they surprised the younger daughters with the finished home,” Dedman said. “I believe that Treva and her children appreciate the value of owning a home as much as any family could.”An Asheville native, Williams says she
makes between $20,000 and $30,000 a year. They were paying $445 a
month for rent at River Glen, and now her 30-year mortgage comes in
at about $675 a month.Paying the mortgage beats paying rent any
day.”I calculated what I spent in rent, and I would’ve had half a
house paid for if I’d started then,” Williams said. “To me, I think
about how it’s an investment, not a debt.”