For more than 1,700 low and very low-income families in rural Southeast Oklahoma, the American Dream of Homeownership has become a reality through Lift Community Action Agency’s Self-Help Housing Program. The purpose of the Section 502 Mutual Self-Help Housing Loan program is to provide housing opportunities for very low and low-income households. The program is targeted to those families who are unable to obtain decent, safe, and affordable housing through conventional methods.
Families participating in a mutual self-help project actually perform construction labor on each other’s homes under qualified supervision. The labor contributed by participants is referred to as “Sweat Equity.” This results in a reduction of overall construction costs equating to a savings between $10,000 and $20,000 per home. Without this program, homeownership would likely be unattainable.
Lift’s Self Help staff participate throughout the entire process from start to finish. During the predevelopment phase, staff work to market the program, provide homeownership training, identify groups that will work together, and assist families with their loan applications to USDA Rural Development and securing a site for home construction.
Generally, four to ten families are formed into a group who work together on each other’s homes until every home in the group is completed. The construction phase typically lasts for six months. Families contribute significantly during the construction phase. For participants who are unable to perform the required labor, measures are in place so that these families can also obtain homeownership through the Self Help program.
Lift Community Action Agency has been operating the Self Help program in our primary tri-county service area (Choctaw, McCurtain and Pushmataha counties) since 1973. In 2004, we expanded this service to address housing needs for residents in Atoka and Bryan counties. A separate expansion occurred in 2006 to include Carter, Love and Marshall counties. Now, this much needed service is being provided by Lift to Southeast Oklahoma residents covering an eight-county area.
The Self Help Housing Program is made possible through partnerships with the following:
Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency
Federal Home Loan Bank of Topeka
Rural Enterprises Inc.
Oklahoma Department of Commerce