June is National Homeownership Month, recognizing the important relationship between homeownership and achieving the American Dream, and encouraging people around the country to learn more about homeownership opportunities and financial management plans. In 1995, President Clinton decreed a week-long celebration in recognition of homeownership, this week long recognition was extended in 2002 when President George W. Bush issued a proclamation declaring the entire month of June to be National Homeownership Month.
For the past six decades, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been actively involved in homeownership assistance for rural America, and this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Mutual Self-Help Program, as well as the 50,000th home built. The Mutual Self-Help Housing Program represents a partnership between the federal government, rural housing organizations and rural families. All with the same goal: improving housing conditions in rural areas.
The Mutual Self-Help Program enables local, qualified organizations to address the housing needs of rural America. Local housing organization receive funding from the Rural Development office of USDA. With these funds, housing organization provide technical and supervisory assistance to families that apply for loans from USDA and organize families in groups of 8-12, which then work together to build their homes. Families work nights and weekends to construct their homes putting in 65% (or 1,000 hours) of the labor. In doing so, families earn an average $25,006 in equity, decrease construction costs, and make lasting investments in their community. Through this sweat-equity model and by exclusively targeting very-low and low-income families, the Mutual Self-Help Program helps families access safe and decent affordable housing that would otherwise be unable to enter the market.
Beyond the 50,000th family completing a self-help home, the success of Mutual and Self Help Housing can be measured in the demand for this program. Across the nation, more than 50,000 families are on local housing waiting lists for self-help housing. Their participation has been limited by budget limitations of the Agriculture Department.
NRHC members have been busy celebrating National Homeownership Month and the Mutual Self-Help Program across the country with ground-breaking ceremonies, block parties, blitz builds, and even a gubernatorial proclamation. Here are just a few of their stories:
- On June 12, the Northwest Regional Housing Authority hosted an event called Appreciating 50 Years of Building Dreams. Attendees included employees from NWRHA, Little Dixie Community Action Agency, and USDA Rural Development; Self-Help Homeowners, and an aid from Congressman Rick Crawford’s (AR) office.
- Coachella Valley Housing Coalition (CVHC) hosted the Los Jardines Self-Help Grand Opening and National Homeownership Month Event. Regarding the Mutual Self-Help Program, John Mealy, Executive Director of CVHC said: “One of the greatest joys of the work we do is seeing the happy faces on the families as they finally put down their hammers and move into their new homes – and years later learning through their stories about the positive impacts the Self Help Program has had on the lives of their children.”
- The Self-Help Housing Corporation of Hawaii worked with the offices of Governor David Ige and Lt. Governor Shan Tsutsui to recognize the Self-Help Program. June 15, 2015 was named Self-Help Housing Day in Hawaii by gubernatorial proclamation.
NRHC encourages you to share you appreciation and celebration of the Self-Help Program by sending your photos and stories to Audrey Johnston at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sharing on social media? Use #50yrs50khomes to increase awareness of rural housing and this great program.