Katharine Ferguson | USDA Rural Development | June 13, 2014
A stormy sky didn’t dampen spirits as a crew of us from USDA Rural Development’s national headquarters celebrated National Homeownership Month by helping Mutual Self-Help Housing Program participants build their own homes in Lincoln, DE.
USDA Rural Development’s Self-Help Housing Program offers families with modest means a hands-on approach to achieve homeownership. Groups of families work side-by-side on nights and weekends to construct their homes, and no one moves in until all the houses are completed.
The Lincoln, DE, build is managed by Milford Housing Development Corporation (MHDC), a nonprofit that has operated a Self-Help Housing Program for the past 18 years. With support from USDA Rural Development’s Self-Help Technical Assistance Grant Program, MHDC provides pre-construction counseling, loan packaging, construction supervision, and post occupancy counseling as part of the overall Self-Help Housing experience. The grant covers expenses accumulated by MHDC for administrative costs, the salary for a construction foreman, and certain power tools.
At the site, we had the chance to work alongside program participant and future home owner, Michelle Mosely. She has worked alongside friends who have built homes through the Self-Help program in the past, and is thrilled to now be building a home for herself and her three children.
Michelle, who is a State of Delaware Youth Rehabilitation Counselor, told us that building a home is hard work, but fun, and the experience you gain by building your own home cannot be replaced. Meeting new people and showing her kids that dedication, determination and hard work are some of life’s simple pleasures that give her a sense of satisfaction and pride, she explained to us as we worked together to hammering floor beams into place.
Michelle is one of 164 families in Kent and Sussex counties to participate in the program and build their own home through the MHDC program since its inception. It is estimated that each participant’s “sweat equity” is equivalent to $35,000 in mortgage savings. The balance of the mortgage is then covered under a low-interest, fixed-rate USDA Rural Development Direct Home Loan.
Homeownership has long been the cornerstone of the American dream, and affordable home financing–like the options provided through USDA’s rural housing programs–creates ladders of opportunity to help families grow and thrive. We are proud of the program and policy work USDA and the Obama Administration are doing to strengthen rural communities and economies. It was great to also spend time swinging a hammer to help Michelle and the other homeowners as they, quite literally, build equity and assets in homeownership to increase their long-term financial security and own their futures.