San Diego, CA, Mar 07, 2012 -- Working under the guidance of Visalia, California, based Self-Help Enterprises (SHE), 174 California families will soon begin building their own homes. The families, which will participate in USDA’s Self Help Housing Program, are the latest in a growing group of income-eligible Americans to use the program to achieve the dream of homeownership. Today, during a trip to California to attend the annual meeting of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Agriculture Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager announced that USDA has approved funding support for SHE to recruit families, oversee home construction, and assist in loan packaging and related activities.
“The USDA Self-Help Housing Program provides an opportunity for limited-income families to build their own equity and improve their quality of life,” said Tonsager. “Working together, helping each other, prospective homeowners build safe, affordable dwellings and develop skills that will provide benefits to their families and to society.”
Under the Self Help program, groups of up to a dozen families and individuals work together to build their own homes under the direction of a supervisor hired by a non-profit housing developer. They work on their own home as well as those of their neighbors, and are required to complete 65 percent of the work themselves. No one moves in until all the work is completed. The labor they provide becomes their “sweat equity” in the homes at closing. The Self Help program was started by USDA in the 1960’s.
SHE was the first self-help housing provider in the nation, and oversaw construction of the first three self-help homes built in Goshen, Calif. in 1963. SHE is currently working on a new subdivision 5 blocks from the original homes, and will receive a $5 million Technical Assistance Grant to oversee construction and completion of the new homes. Eligible counties for home construction projects under the grant include Merced, Madera, Kern, Fresno, Kings, Tulare, Mariposa and Stanislaus.
One owner who recently completed building her home through the Self Help program is Edith Arreguis, a single mother of a five year old son. Working with others, Arreguis spent about a year building her new home in Goshen. Following the birth of her child, she struggled to find a suitable, affordable place for them to live. Although the process of building a home under the supervision of SHE required months of sacrifices and 14-hour work days, with help and support from friends and family Arreguis was able to finish her home. Building her own house through SHE enabled her to provide a secure home for her son, and helped her continue toward her career goals.
The Self Help Technical Assistance Grant announced today is funded directly by the Government. These grants provide financial assistance to non-profit organizations to provide technical assistance to low- and very low-income households to build their own homes in a rural area. Funds may be used to pay salaries, rent, and office expenses of the non-profit organization.
Since taking office, President Obama’s Administration has taken significant steps to improve the lives of rural Americans and has provided broad support for rural communities. The Obama Administration has set goals of modernizing infrastructure by providing broadband access to 10 million Americans, expanding educational opportunities for students in rural areas and providing affordable health care. In the long term, these unparalleled rural investments will help ensure that America’s rural communities are repopulating, self-sustaining and thriving economically.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an existing portfolio of more than $165 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).