Responding to Community Housing Needs

Self-Help Housing Technical Assistance

NCALL provides assistance to potential and existing self-help housing organizations in twenty-one states in the mid-Atlantic, northeast, and mid-west United States through a contract with the USDA's Rural Housing Service. Specific services include preapplication, final application, and staff training; program, financial and construction management training; attending review meetings; and providing quarterly newsletters and networking opportunities.

Mutual Self-Help Housing consists of families working together to build their own homes. With the assistance of a skilled staff, an association of generally 4 to 10 families is formed. These families provide at least 65% of the labor necessary to build the homes. Most families use Rural Development's 502 Homeownership Loan Program to finance their homes. This is a low interest loan based on the family's income and is available to low and very low income families in rural areas with good credit history. The families generally save between $10,000 and $30,000 in housing costs using this sweat equity method. The sponsor organization receives a Section 523 Self-Help Housing Technical Assistance Grant from Rural Development to operate the self-help program. The nonprofit grantee takes on the responsibilities of training the families in construction as well as homeownership skills, keeping the families' loan records, ordering the construction materials, choosing the sites and house plans, recruiting the families and keeping them motivated throughout the construction process.

Self-Help Housing Program 2012 Statistics

Total 502 Loans Closed: 76
502 Loan Dollars Leveraged: $9,206,593
Total Other Funds Leveraged: $861,190
Average Sweat Equity Earned: $20,774
Average Appraised Value: $132,471
Total 523 Grants Obligated: $2,253,449
Very Low Income Served (Below 50% of Median): 63%
Low Income Served (Below 80% of Median): 37%

Since receiving our first contract in 1983, we have assisted self-help housing grantees in obtaining more than $54 million of 523 Self-Help Grants which created over 3,500 homes for low income families.

The concept of self-help housing has been around for a long time. It has grown out of the early barn raising tradition of the Amish and Mennonites. The American Friends Service Committee was instrumental in starting self-help housing as a way to serve farmworkers in the early 1960's. This effort was successful and in 1968 Section 523 Self-Help Housing Technical Assistance grants were authorized. Since that time, over 41,000 homes have been constructed using the self-help method.

Eligibility Requirements

In order to receive a Section 523 Self-Help Housing Technical Assistance Grant an organization must meet several requirements. They must be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit or governmental agency with the "production of affordable housing" as one of its purposes. They must have at least five board members, the financial and administrative capacity to operate the program, and previous experience operating housing programs.


NCALL's services include technical and management assistance and training in such areas as construction scheduling, financial management, mortgage packaging and group work, management and reporting, and capacity building. NCALL reviews pre-applications, final applications, and program modifications for feasibility. Contact is made with each grantee at least monthly to discuss productivity, spending, and issues or problems needing attention. Quarterly review meetings with the grantee and Rural Development are attended. The services are free to the self-help housing grantees.


The 21 state region that is specified under our contract consist of: Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa.