Responding to Community Housing Needs

Self-Help Success Stories

"I have always wanted to be a homeowner. This self-help housing experience...and my new has really meant the world to me."

The Appalachian Regional Commission, has designated Wayne County Kentucky as a "distressed area." They define this as a community in which the poverty rate is 150% of the United States average or greater with a median family income no greater than 67% of the US average. In this impoverished area, Kentucky Highlands Community Development Corporation (KHCDC) is making a positive difference in the community by offering a Mutual Self-Help Housing Program.

"The self-help housing program has really been able to create good news in this county effected so negatively by the weak economy," says Tom Manning-Beavin, Housing Director for KHCDC.

This program has not only developed much needed affordable housing, but it has put subcontractors back to work. According to siding and roofing contractors Rusty and Susan Upchurch, "Before this project came along, we hadn’t worked in six months. We were about to lose everything."

KHCDC began their Mutual Self-Help Housing Program in 2008. Since then they have built homes in both Wayne and Clinton Counties. The organization was formed in 1968 to stimulate growth and expand employment opportunities. They serve 22 counties in Southeastern Kentucky.

"Self-Help really is a great program and NCALL has been instrumental in our success. They really pushed us to be smarter in the administration of the program. They insisted that we have a staff person to do loan packaging every day. Having a loan packager anchors a lot of other things that we do. For our organization, having the capacity to package a Rural Development 502 Loan has been critical to our success. Without NCALL’s support and patience, we would have failed and given up."

The most recent group was another turning point for KHCDC. "When one of our self-help groups fell apart, NCALL really pushed us to reach out and market to the Latino community in Wayne County," said Manning-Beavin. That strategy worked well for KHCDC. Half of their last group was Latino. "At first, there was a concern that for this reason the group wouldn’t get along. That concern proved to be unfounded. The group got along very well and continues to stay connected."

According to new homeowner, Patsy, "I never would have met the families that were in my group otherwise, but now I have friends for life!"

"The work that is being done by MHDC exemplifies that potential, creating safe, healthy, affordable and energy efficient homes."

The Mutual Self-Help Housing Program creates a large positive impact in the communities in which it operates and Milford Housing Development Corporation (MHDC) is no exception. This impact comes not only from the affordable housing, empowered homeowners, and solid communities it creates, but also from its economic impact.

There is a lot of talk these days about the economy and the importance of job creation. “No other industry creates more economic impact than affordable housing – none,” said David Moore, MHDC’s CEO.

In 1995, NCALL assisted MHDC in starting a Mutual Self-Help Housing Program and they have been operating one ever since. Over the years MHDC has developed 115 self-help homes in rural Delaware.

“Today we have about $3 million worth of self-help construction going on statewide. According to a University of Delaware study, that's about $21 million in economic impact. This program’s benefit is greater than many realize and it’s a story that needs to be told,” commented David Moore.

According to MHDC, for each of its 18 homes under construction in Delaware, 1.8 jobs are leveraged, which equates to 32 full-time equivalent jobs. So MHDC and self-help housing are creating important job opportunities while supporting small businesses and benefiting the economy. Dale Dukes, owner of Dukes Lumber, is very thankful for MHDC’s Self-Help program. They are one of the program’s largest suppliers and a huge supporter of MHDC as well.

“Dukes Lumber has been around since 1962. We started on a back road in Sussex County, but have grown into a company with 50 employees. When the housing slowdown occurred, we feared there might be layoffs. But at the same time we began working with MHDC, which turned out to be a blessing; we didn't have to let any employees go. You know, life is really just about relationships and Dukes Lumber is proud to partner with MHDC."

Local drywall business owner, Steven Reynolds, feels the same way. “I see a lot of small business owners who are struggling to find work and make ends meet; that’s why I consider myself fortunate to work with MHDC.”

In August, federal officials from EPA and HUD, honored MHDC for their self-help housing program, which was called an ‘Innovative Rural Housing Project Built to the Highest Energy Star Standards.’

According to EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin, “President Obama created the White House Rural Council recognizing the enormous potential in rural America to spur jobs, innovation and local investment. The work that is being done by MHDC exemplifies that potential, creating safe, healthy, affordable and energy efficient homes.”

The families that participate and provide sweat equity are at the core of the self-help housing program. According to Desiree, mother of one, “Every day, I wake up with a smile on my face, look in the mirror, and say look what I've done. I've painted and built my walls, I've done the siding and the roof. It's just been a joy.” Mother of two, Courtney, also enjoyed the program. “It's a demanding process, but it's so worthwhile because in the end, everyone wants a home of their own at a decent price. You can't ask for anything better.”

This year NCALL honored MHDC with an Excellence in Self-Help Housing Award at our 35th Anniversary celebration.

According to Russell Huxtable, MHDC’s COO, “Now more than ever, NCALL’s valuable self-help housing technical assistance and training will be necessary, due to the office closings and staff reductions experienced by Rural Development. NCALL’s specialists have the experience and knowledge to help bridge the gap for grantees and RD personnel throughout the region.”

"We truly value NCALL’s staff development resources. "

Mutual Self-Help Housing grantee Community Action Commission of Fayette County, in Washington Court House, Ohio, is now the developer of the largest residential solar community in the state of Ohio. They acquired this designation after completing ten self-help homes with solar roof panels in their Arbor Village subdivision. Their Housing Director, Patty Griffiths, is excited to be part of this ground-breaking effort.

“This is one more step in our efforts towards making our homes more energy efficient and green. I think we will see the real cost savings to the homeowners over the next several years as utility prices rise faster than they have in the past.”

Geoff Greenfield of Third Sun Solar and Wind Power Limited of Athens, Ohio, explained the technical aspect of the solar panels.

“Fayette County is a leader. Partnering affordable homes with affordable energy is a key to progress and I can see it being replicated,” said Greenfield.

The solar power will work in harmony with utility power. The homes that have solar panels will get a portion of their power from the sun. The remaining portion will come from the utility grid. Twelve 180-watt panels were installed, which should provide each house with 2,160 kwh of power, according to Greenfield. An inverter is used to convert direct current from the solar panels to usable electricity. A meter measures the electric current both ways, and the utility generally pays the user a rebate for excess power. The project all started when the USDA, Rural Development Ohio State Office suggested that they look into a grant program for solar use projects. CAC of Fayette County applied for and received a grant of $8,000 per homeowner from the Ohio Department of Development and a federal tax credit of $2,000 per house. The remaining part of the almost $18,000 cost of the solar panels was covered by the participants’ USDA 502 Loans. After operating a Mutual Self-Help Housing Program for over 18 years, Griffiths can see a major difference in the community.

“It’s great to get families out of the rental cycle and begin building a wealth base. The town also benefits by creating new tax payers and generating additional water and sewer fees. We truly value NCALL’s staff development resources. They have definitely been there for us over the years with lots of encouragement and support. ”

"NCALL’s experience and best practice recommendations are wonderful."

Carlock, Illinois is a small village of approximately 500 residents surrounded by a large rural area. Several years ago their school district was considering shutting down the elementary school and busing the kids to other schools in surrounding communities. The residents were not happy. That is when YouthBuild of Bloomington, Illinois, stepped in. The nonprofit worked with the village to annex and develop a 57 acre subdivision that will eventually have 63 homes. Many of these homes are being built under the Mutual Self-Help Housing Program using the sweat equity of participating families.

YouthBuild is now on its third USDA Mutual Self-Help Housing grant, building 12 homes each time in Carlock’s new Stoneman Gardens subdivision.

“This program truly helps people achieve a dream that they wouldn’t be able to have otherwise,” says YouthBuild Executive Director, Suzanne Fitzgerald. “Most of the families in this program have come from rental situations. Aside from the affordability, these families also have lifelong advantages of being in a good school system and having lots of room for their kids to play outside.”

This project would not have been successful without NCALL’s assistance.

“NCALL was helpful right from the beginning,” says Mrs. Fitzgerald. “We really appreciated the straight talk. NCALL’s experience and best practice recommendations are wonderful. The organization is very customer service friendly. I have the utmost respect for NCALL.”

Now, six years later, the elementary school in the village of Carlock that was once in jeopardy of closing, is being expanded and renovated. Stoneman Gardens subdivision and the new residents it has brought to this village through self-help housing, has rejuvenated this rural community.