NECAC's Self-Help Housing Rehabilitation Program funds the materials and supervision for renovation projects in qualifying homes, but it's the homeowners themselves who perform the work.

The whirring of saws filled the basement at 1012 Union St. Thursday morning as Josh Stealey began work to remove his basement floor. He worked methodically, section by section, to take out the decades old floor with plans to replace it.

This might seem like a typical remodel project, but Stealey and his wife Elia are actually the first people to benefit from a program that supports home renovations through the North East Communication Action Corporation.

NECAC’s Self-Help Housing Rehabilitation Program funds the materials and supervision for renovation projects in qualifying homes, but it’s the homeowners themselves who perform the work.

“Anything you can do for your own home is great,” said Carla Potts, NECAC Deputy Director for Housing Development Programs, said. “You can have that pride in ownership.”

NECAC is using a $159,000 USDA Rural Development grant to finance renovation work at 26 owner-occupied homes in Marion, Pike and Ralls counties. Income-qualifying participants are working with a NECAC construction supervisor, who provides one-on-one instruction on the skills they need to do the projects.

Guiding Stealey as he began to remove the basement floor was Brian Reed, NECAC’s self-help supervisor.

Potts said the projects differ from home to home and the homes chosen were already on a list to benefit from NECAC’s weatherization programs. The Stealeys are working on the basement floor. The next home will have insulation blown in. Door and window replacements are on tap at another house.

This isn’t the first time NECAC has done a self-help program. Under the original program, participants worked as a team to build each other’s homes. Forty-eight houses were constructed over about 10 years starting in 1999 in Shelby, Monroe, Randolph and Montgomery counties.

Potts stressed the importance of homeowners doing all their own work.

“It’s your home. It’s your investment,” she said. “They will always have that.”

More information about Self-Help Rehabilitation is available by calling the NECAC Housing Development Department at 573-324-6622.

Reach editor Eric Dundon at eric.dundon@courierpost.com .