Blog Resources Spotlight

Report: Reflecting on 50 Years of Success

Fifty Years of Self-Help HousingThroughout rural America communities confront the lack of safe and affordable housing. Rural communities have less access to affordable credit options and lower incomes, which in turn leads to increased instances of persistent poverty. Additionally, many rural communities face substandard housing and lack of plumbing. Because of these issues, rural Americans are often unable to find or afford decent housing.

The goal of this report is to recognize and commemorate the 50th anniversary and 50,000th home built through the Section 523 Mutual Self-Help Housing Program. This program is designed to assist eligible families in achieving their dreams of homeownership. Administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the program teams together families who work together to build each other’s homes. All self-help homes are designed to be both affordable and safe, ranging in size and structure to accommodate different family needs. The Mutual Self-Help Program serves as an essential tool for rural Americans to achieve affordable homeownership, and improving the quality of life in rural areas.


Spotlight on the National Farmworker Jobs Program

The National Farmworker Jobs Program (NFJP) is a Department of Labor (DOL) program administered in the United States and Puerto Rico by local organizations to provide services for migrant and seasonal farmworkers.  The NFJP program, originally authorized under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, is now a part of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 and the 2014 Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA).  Today, the program consists of 52 employment and training grants and 17 housing grants.

Community organizations, as NFJP grantees, and state agencies work together to address the needs of the farmworker population, including housing and other support services.  Here are a few great examples of how NFJP grantees have utilized the funds to provide housing for farmworkers.

The Office of Rural and Farmworking Housing (ORFH), in Yakima, Washington, is a NFJP grantee.  Esperanza photo #1Through this program, ORFH assisted the Housing Authority of Grant County by providing essential development services for the construction of Esperanza.  Esperanza, pictured to the right, is a seasonally-occupied farmworker housing development, located in Mattawa, WA.  Some of the services that ORFH provided to the Housing Authority of Grant County for this project include feasibility assessment; securing zoning/permitting approvals; review architectural drawings and specifications; applying for and securing all permanent financing; assist is the bidding and selection process for the General Contractor; oversee, package and submit all financial draws during construction; marketing and management assistance (as needed); and upon completion, close-out all financing.

Additionally, ORFH is currently assisting the Sunnyside Housing Authority for the Rainier Park development in Sunnyside, WA, pictured to the left.  When completed, the Rainier Park development will provide year-round housing to farmworkers.  The Rainier Park development will be comprised of 40 two and three-bedroom housing units for families earning 50 percent of less of the median income for the area.  Of the 40 units, 30 will be reserved for those with a verifiable income that Sunnyside - trussesqualifies as agricultural work, and 10 will be reserved for low-income individuals and families.

ORFH services for Rainier Park include: feasibility assessment; zoning/permitting approvals including a short subdivision; applying for a securing construction loan and permanent financing including Low Income Housing Tax Credits; negotiating terms and conditions of construction loan and equity investment; overseeing the selection processes for the project architect and general contractor; review, package and oversee all financial draws during construction; and upon completion, close-out all financing.

Self-Help Enterprises, another non-profit organization that serves as a NFJP grantee has successfully utilized NFJP funds to develop and support farmworker housing in California.  Self-Help Enterprises has worked to address the over-crowding and high-cost burdens faced by farmworkers in Lamont, California.  The development is comprised of 44 rental units, including two-, three-, and four-bedroom units.  Also in California, Self-Help Enterprises sponsored and developed the Viscaya Gardens project in Dinuba, CA.  In addition to providing quality affordable housing, this development also offers resident service programs to improve the quality of life of its residents. To see what Self-Help Enterprises has to say about these communities, visit the following links: Viscaya Gardens and Lamont, Californiaand visit their website at


Key Issues Spotlight

Spotlight on Hillary Clinton’s Rural Platform

As the 2016 Presidential Race heats up this fall, the candidates on both sides of the aisle are introducing their platforms on a variety of policy issues, from immigration, to tax reform and education.  However, Hillary Clinton is the only candidate to have released a platform on a topic that directly impacts the lives and livelihood of people all around the country – a plan for Rural America.[1]  Hopefully, this is just the start and more candidates will lay out their policy plans.  For now, rural advocates can analyze the plan we have thus far.

Clinton’s “Plan for a Vibrant Rural America” lays out four focus areas designed to address the educational, economic, and health issues facing rural communities.  Clinton intends to (1) “Spur[ ]  investment to power the rural economy;” (2) “Rais[e] agriculture production and profitability for family farms;” (3) “Promot[e] clean energy leadership and collaborative stewardship;” and (4) “Expand[ ] opportunity in rural communities across America.” [2]

To spur the rural economy, Clinton plans to improve infrastructure, access to credit and capital, and investments.  To do so, Clinton would increase the number of Rural Business Investment Companies (RBIC), simplify regulations for community banks that do not measure assets in billions, create and invest in a national infrastructure bank, streamline, expand, and make permanent the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC), and strengthen USDA grant programs.  These programs would facilitate and develop capital networks and, in turn, increase rural communities’ access to private sector capital.  The areas of infrastructure Clinton would focus on include rural water, transportation, and broadband services.  Regarding USDA, Clinton’s plan centers on funding flexibility and leveraging local resources by working with community partners and public entities to expand the StrikeForce Initiative.

To promote agriculture production and profitability for family farms, Clinton intends to focus on increasing funding and addressing student loan debt to support next generation farmers.  Her platform includes plans to build a strong local and regional food system by doubling funding to the Farm Market Promotion Program and Local Food Promotion Program, to ensure that the disaster assistance and crop insurance programs are focused and targeted to farmers and ranchers in need, as well as fight for immigration reform due to the role that America’s immigrant workers play in supporting the nation’s agriculture economy.

To promote clean energy leadership and collaborative stewardship, Clinton’s platform includes plans to fully fund the Environmental Quality Incentives Program; strengthen the renewable fuel standard, double the loan guarantees made through the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program to support the bio-based economy’s growth; and to launch her “Clean Energy Challenge,” which would involve, among other things, expanding USDA’s Rural Utilities Service.

The final focus of Clinton’s rural platform is to expand opportunity in rural communities across America by strengthening the rural economy and raising wages for working Americans. To strengthen the economy, Clinton plans to increase investments in Early Head Start and incorporate President Obama’s plan to make community colleges free.  The final aspect of Clinton’s rural platform focuses on improving the health and healthcare services for rural communities through improved technologies and increased of health care facilities, including substance abuse centers, in rural areas.

Notably, Clinton’s plan does not mention a critical issue for many of America’s rural residents, and that is the need for affordable and decent housing.  At a minimum, it provides an outline of her vision for rural residents to consider and demonstrates that the economic opportunity needs of rural communities are on her mind as she considers what her agenda would be if elected president.

In light of the fact that over 15 percent of Americans live in rural communities, the lack of attention to this population from most of the Presidential Candidates is unfortunate.  It is still early in the 2016 race to the White House, and we look forward to hearing what the other candidates’ visions are for rural America.  As more candidates (hopefully) introduce their platforms for Rural America, check back to the NRHC Blog for updates.




National Homeownership Month:  Celebrating 50 Years and 50,000 Homes Built Through the Mutual Self-Help Program

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  Sharing on social media? Use #50yrs50khomes to increase awareness of rural housing and this great program.

Blog Spotlight

Spotlight: Edith Arreguis

Milestone on a Long Road to Success

By Kathy Heinrichs Wiest

Edith Arreguis can already picture herself and her son, Leixander, enjoying their new home in Goshen, California, a small unincorporated community of 3,000 in Tulare County in the San Joaquin Valley. Because options for safe, decent, and affordable housing are limited in Goshen, Edith turned to Self-Help Enterprises and its Mutual Self-Help Housing program to help her give a better life to her son. Self-Help Enterprises provided construction supervision and financial counseling to support Edith and 9 other families as they built their own homes.

Edith’s son, Leixander, and other children celebrate their new homes.
Edith’s son, Leixander, and other children celebrate their new homes.

Edith’s search for suitable housing for her son was a challenge. The waiting list was long for government subsidized housing. The cost of a mortgage on a house in a safe neighborhood was out of the question. So Edith and Leixander live in a small room in an apartment shared with Edith’s mom, stepdad, and three siblings.

The dream of providing a better life for her son carried Edith through the hard work required to build a Self-Help Home. Despite the struggles of being a single mother, Edith contributed over 1,300 hours to help build her home and the homes of 9 other families in the program. “Sometimes I’m here [working on the house] from 7 to 11 and then I run home and shower and get to my job. I might not see my baby till ten at night. It’s hard, but it’s worth it.”

For Edith, finishing and moving into her house is more of a milestone on her journey than an end goal in and of itself. She is eager to get settled because it means there will be time again to pursue her education. Her goal: to become a surgical nurse.

Building her own house allows Edith to provide a secure home for her son, and continue toward her career goals. “If I’d get a normal house, I wouldn’t be able to go to school because it would be too expensive,” she reflects. “There are a lot of people like me who can’t afford going to school, having a job, and paying their mortgage.” By building her own home under Self-Help Enterprises’ program, Edith was able to use her sweat equity as a down payment and save 10 percent on her mortgage loan. This translates into $100 less in bills each month that she can use to save for her son’s education or for a rainy day.

With these ambitious goals, Edith is well on the way to fulfilling her dream of providing a good life for her son. “Even though I am so tired,” she says, “I will never regret this opportunity.”

[box color=”silver”]Self-Help Enterprises is largely credited with pioneering the concept of organized Mutual Self-Help Housing in the United States. Since 1965, SHE has served thousands of low-income, rural families in San Joaquin Valley, California and has served as the model for similar organizations around the world. Over 45 years, SHE has assisted over 5,779 families build their own homes in over 90 communities.[/box]