2018 Self-Help Housing Success Story

Real estate is Maine’s number two economic driver, only behind healthcare. Maine has one of the highest homeownership rates in the nation, but many of those homes are energy-inefficient, very old, and expensive to maintain. Even with that, the median home price is $230,700 which prices many low income families out of the market.

Since 1965, Community Concepts, Inc. (CCI) of South Paris, Maine, has offered a variety of housing, economic development and social services for the communities of Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties of Maine. These services support both the basic needs of low income families and promotes self-sufficiency. For the past 25 years, CCI has been operating a Self-Help Housing program. This program offers families the chance to either build their own home, or purchase a home and make repairs to it with CCI’s assistance. If they choose the building option, the participants have to put in 65% of the labor to build the home which is built in a group. All of the families help build each other’s homes and save money by putting in so much labor. None of the families can move in until all of the homes are completed.

According to Sandy Albert, CCI’s Director of Housing Improvement Services, the Self-Help Housing program has been great for the participants and the community as a whole. “Not only are we helping communities with new homes that add to the tax base, our program contributes greatly to the local economy as all funds to build the homes, materials purchased and the contractors that work on them is directly spent at the local level. While building in certain towns, even going to the local store at their lunch break is adding to the local economy.”

“This program has allowed our families to become leaders in their communities and helps give their children a place to go to school and a stable life. Many of the families that participate in this program never had the opportunity to even think about owning their own home. In working in a group with others, they learn leadership skills and patience. The quality of the homes that they build on their own are usually better than local contractor-built projects. They are proud of the hard work that they contribute to make their family more stable and often are paying less than they were for rent. The highlight of this program is that their hard work gets them in a home sometimes $25,000-$30,000 less than what they would pay on the market.”

Throughout it all, NCALL works closely with CCI to ensure that their program operates smoothly. “NCALL is a source of training and education for CCI that is unheard of in other programs. At any time, when questions arise, NCALL is available to assist through challenges,” says Sandy. “This program is not easy to administer and having one contact to help work through questions and offer best practices is critical.” Sandy also appreciates the way NCALL serves as a conduit between the local level and national level of funding. “NCALL can provide grantees with the knowledge of what is happening in Washington with funding and program changes, while also allowing the grantees to be involved in those same federal decisions by offering the opportunity to provide local input.”