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A 73 Year Old Kentucky Widow Becomes a First-Time Homeowner Thanks to USDA

Elizabeth Bonner’s new, energy efficient Kentucky home, funded in part by USDA Rural Development.

Elizabeth Bonner’s new, energy efficient Kentucky home, funded in part by USDA Rural Development.

To Elizabeth Bonner, the single greatest thing about her new home is the serenity she feels as she sits on her covered back porch, listening to the water as it rolls over the rocks that line the creek bed bordering the back of her property.

She listens not only to the water, but to the frogs as well.  Bonner would tell you it is like music to her ears. The setting is as beautiful and peaceful as a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting. Her new home, financed in part by USDA Rural Development, is nestled between two tree-covered hillsides on a gravel roadway that leads to the property where she spent the first 18 years of her life. For Bonner, she is not just getting a home of her own – she is coming home.

Bonner, a 73-year-old widow, made the decision to purchase her home in the spring of 2011. She had been renting an apartment in the city of Vanceburg, but was not happy with the lack of privacy, not having any green space and the steps she had to climb in order to get to the laundry room.

“I wasn’t born in town and I don’t like living in town. I like the country and the feel of this place,” said Bonner. “In town I had no privacy or freedom. This place is me … I love the country.  I’m back home.”

She was initially attracted to her new home’s location because of its proximity to her family’s former homestead. Bonner is pleased with every aspect of it. She proudly shows off the beautiful interior, which she helped design, with a smile that cannot be contained.

Bonner’s father died when she was three years old and her mother raised her and her siblings. Although she was concerned about taking on the responsibility of a mortgage at her age, Bonner is clearly her mother’s daughter and did not let that stop her from realizing her dream of being a homeowner.

A cool creek runs behind Mrs. Bonner’s new house.

A cool creek runs behind Mrs. Bonner’s new house.

Little did she know the significance of the home she would eventually end up purchasing. It is setting the standard for affordable, energy-efficient homes in the state of Kentucky.

The new home, located in Vanceburg, will use 75 percent less energy than a standard newly constructed home. For a senior citizen on a fixed income, the reduced utility bills will make this new home affordable. This reduction is accomplished using Passive House principles – one of the highest standards of energy-efficient construction – and includes nearly air-tight construction, superior insulation and highly-efficient equipment such as triple pane windows that provide passive solar heat in the winter, an energy recovery ventilator system and a hybrid heat pump water heater. The home also contains an array of eight solar panels on the roof that provide most of the needed electricity through a clean, renewable energy source.

To make this project a reality, Rural Development worked with a host of strategic partners, including People’s Self-Help Housing, Inc., the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Federation of Appalachian Housing Enterprises (FAHE), to make the home affordable.

June is homeownership month.  To find out more about USDA’s homeownership programs click here.  To read the press release outlining events planned for homeownership month click here.

8 Responses to “A 73 Year Old Kentucky Widow Becomes a First-Time Homeowner Thanks to USDA”

  1. Lidia says:

    It would be interesting to know how much it cost to construct this home. The biggest obstacle I have found in making homes more energy efficient is the building cost.

  2. Mike says:

    My guess is also the initial startup cost. While I personally think altervative sources are a significant savings on our enviornment, the truth is, most Americans cannot afford to do so. I would in a heartbeat, if I would be able to afford the startup construction costs.
    Another question I have, is how do these “select few” individuals get choosen as receipiants for gov’t funded projects like this? I’d sure like to get in on this game.

  3. linda anderson says:

    I’d like to know about building costs also. How about a follow-up article, or just letting us know where to go to get more information? Thanks.

  4. Lem says:

    The home looks small and how much of the building cost was a grant from USDA

  5. Rebecca [USDA Moderator] says:

    Lidia and Mike,

    Thanks for your comments! The home shown in the photo cost about $135,000. USDA Rural Development financed a fraction of that. The rest was funded through other programs provided by the State and by HUD. Credit-worthy homeowners who meet income requirements (you have to make less than a certain amount, which varies depending on factors including number of dependants) can obtain a direct loan through USDA at a subsidized interest rate of as low as 1 percent. Home repair loans are also available to income-eligible individuals at 1 percent for 20 years. If you are credit worthy and interested in a home of your own, I would strongly recommend contacting your local USDA Rural Development office. Thousands of rural Americans avail themselves of our housing programs each year.

  6. Jorge says:

    There is a broken link for the image of the house, which does not reflect well on your development staff. Also in the future, when highlighting these kinds of articles, more information than less is really necessary because as this article stands now, it is woefully lacking in any real useful details, e.g. cost per square foot to build, whether the design is feasible in urban areas, etc.

  7. Keith says:

    To Rebecca (USDA Moderator),

    Could the USDA share some of the plans and systems that were used to make the home as special as it is?

    It would be great to see if these systems could be added to another home for the same type of improvements and benefits.


  8. Tim says:

    Could someone explain to me: why do we need to subsidize home ownership by USDA? Didn’t we learn the lesson from the current economic crisis caused by housing bubbles?

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