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Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 USDA Rural Housing Program Funding Activity Year End Report

FY 2018 USDA Annual Obligation Report CoverThe Housing Assistance Council tabulated data using the USDA Finance Office obligation reports (USDA/Rural Development report code 205c, d and f) and data from the USDA Single Family Housing and Multifamily Housing Divisions in the National Office. The comprehensive report includes tables and maps showing obligation data by program and by State. The report also includes data by fiscal year for each of the programs since program inception.

2019, 173 pages

Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 USDA Rural Housing Program Funding Activity Year End Report

FY 2017 USDA Annual ReportThe Housing Assistance Council tabulated data using the USDA Finance Office obligation reports (USDA/Rural Development report code 205c, d and f) and data from the USDA Single Family Housing and Multifamily Housing Divisions in the National Office. The comprehensive report includes tables and maps showing obligation data by program and by State. The report also includes data by fiscal year for each of the programs since program inception.

This document is available by its individual chapters or as one large compiled document. The compilation document is formatted to print as double-sided pages for printers that are able to print on both sides of the paper. Each chapter starts with a divider page which is intentionally blank to maintain consistency throughout the document.

Updated in May 2018 to include FY 2017 Multifamily Housing Tenant income data and to correct typographic error.

2018, 184 pages

HAC Partners with Local Organization in Rhode Island

Seven Rhode Island families hope to move into their new Colonial-style, single-family houses before the holidays thanks to NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley. The families are selected based on income, credit, and employment criteria, including having earnings between 50-80% of the area median income for Providence County. For more than a year, they have contributed about 30 hours of work per week building the houses. They have worked together, building each other’s homes in phases. Their “sweat equity” has cut costs nearly in half by building about 65% of the homes, with licensed professionals hired to do the electrical and plumbing work requiring expertise. Through the program, the USDA offers the homeowners low-interest loans based on their incomes to make owning a home affordable. In addition, the Housing Assistance Council provided funding to the Fernwood housing development to help make building the homes a reality. Read the article here!

USDA Rural Housing Program Funding Activity Year End Report (FY 15)

USDA RD Rural Housing Program Obligations Year End Report FY 2015Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 USDA Rural Housing Program Funding Activity Year End Report

usda-fy15-obs-yo coverFiscal Year (FY) 2015 USDA Rural Housing Program Funding Activity Year End Report

The Housing Assistance Council tabulated data using the USDA Finance Office obligation reports (USDA/Rural Development report code 205c, d and f) and data from the USDA Single Family Housing and Multifamily Housing Divisions in the National Office. The comprehensive report includes tables and maps showing obligation data by program and by State. The report also includes data by fiscal year for each of the programs since program inception.

This document is available by its individual chapters or as one large compiled document. The compilation document is formatted to print as double-sided pages for printers that are able to print on both sides of the paper. Each chapter starts with a divider page which is intentionally blank to maintain consistency throughout the document.

2015, 164 pages

Download the Full Report
Executive summary

CONTENTS

Introduction/Table of Contents

  1. Summary of USDA Rural Housing Obligations
  2. Single Family Housing Program Obligations
  3. Multifamily Housing Program Obligations
  4. Other Program Obligations
  5. State Obligation Tables
  6. Historical Activity for Selected Programs
  7. Direct Loan Share of Total Obligations for Selected Programs
  8. Homeowner and Tenant Average Income By State
  9. Appropriation and Obligation Tables
  10. About the Data

HAC News: March 18, 2016

HAC News Formats. pdf

March 18, 2016
Vol. 45, No. 5

• Members of Congress question self-help cuts and Rental Assistance calculations. • National Housing Trust Fund gets $186 million • HUD offers funds for lead hazard reduction and control • Household Water Well System grants available • HUD seeks comments on fair housing assessment tool • IRS sets sub-metering rule for utility allowances in LIHTC properties • HUD issues streamlining regulation • Comment deadlines extended for Capital Magnet Fund and over-income HUD tenants • Hispanic homeownership increased while national homeownership fell • Housing Landscape 2016 and online data show affordability for working households • Rural Voices magazine covers rural homelessness

HAC News Formats. pdf

March 18, 2016
Vol. 45, No. 5

Members of Congress question self-help cuts and Rental Assistance calculations. USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Lisa Mensah and agency administrators, including Rural Housing Service head Tony Hernandez, testified March 15 before the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. Subcommittee members criticized the Administration budget’s request to cut Section 523 self-help funding from $27.5 million in FY16 to $18.5 million in FY17. Mensah explained USDA “loves” self-help but had to make difficult choices in order to keep the request within the spending cap set by Congress. Given the FY15 shortfall in Section 521 Rental Assistance funds, members asked how the FY17 request for $1.4 billion was calculated. Mensah assured them USDA’s new way of calculating RA needs would be more accurate than past estimates. Asked how USDA was preparing for maturing mortgages in the Section 515 and 514 programs, Mensah said they were using “all tools at our disposal.” She and Hernandez both said new rental construction will be needed to replace some rental properties.

National Housing Trust Fund gets $186 million. The money comes from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whose NHTF contributions were suspended until this year. HUD will allocate funds to a lead agency in each state; this year most states will get $3 million. HUD will issue guidelines this month for states to develop state allocation plans for use of the funds. The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s website has NHTF information, including a slideshow on state allocation plans.

HUD offers funds for lead hazard reduction and control. States, tribes, and local governments are eligible for Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control grants and Lead Hazard Reduction Demonstration grants to identify and control lead-based paint hazards in privately owned rental or owner-occupied housing. Deadline for both programs is April 28. Contact Mark F. Sorbo, HUD, 202-402-5144.

Household Water Well System grants available. The program makes grants to nonprofits, which then make loans of up to $11,000 to homeowners to construct or repair household water wells for existing homes. Obtain application materials online or at 202-720-9583 and apply by May 9. Contact Derek Jones, RUS, 202-720-9640.

HUD seeks comments on fair housing assessment tool. Comments are due May 10 on the tool for states and insular areas implementing the new Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing final rule (see HAC News, 7/8/15). Separate tools will be provided for local governments and for PHAs. Contact Dustin Parks, HUD, 202-708-1112.

IRS sets sub-metering rule for utility allowances in LIHTC properties. Buildings with funding from USDA or HUD will continue to be governed by those agencies’ utility allowance rules. Comments are due May 2. Contact James Rider, IRS, 202-317-4137.

HUD issues streamlining regulation. The rule implements statutory changes made in HUD’s 2014 and 2015 appropriations acts, streamlines some regulatory requirements of rental assistance programs, and aligns some requirements across programs, including HOPWA and HOME. Contact a HUD program office.

Comment deadlines extended for Capital Magnet Fund and over-income HUD tenants. The CDFI Fund published an interim rule in February (see HAC News, 2/17/16) with comments due on April 8. The deadline is now May 8. Contact Marcia Sigal, CDFI Fund. Comments on HUD’s proposal regarding over-income public housing residents (see HAC News, 2/3/16) are now due on April 11. Contact Todd Thomas, HUD, 678-732–2056.

Hispanic homeownership increased while national homeownership fell. The State of Hispanic Homeownership Report, published by the Hispanic Wealth Project and the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, says that from the fourth quarter of 2014 to the fourth quarter of 2015 the Hispanic homeownership rate increased from 44.5 percent to 46.7 percent. The Report also identifies major barriers to Latino homeownership such as access to affordable mortgage credit, the number of culturally competent professionals in the industry, and a shortage of housing inventory in many major markets.

Housing Landscape 2016 and online data show affordability for working households. The National Housing Conference’s annual analysis reports that demand for rental homes is increasing and rents are rising for working households, defined as those whose members work a total of at least 20 hours a week on average and whose household income does not exceed 120% of the area median. Data for states and metro areas is online.

Rural Voices magazine covers rural homelessness. The March 2016 issue of HAC’s magazine highlights rural communities’ efforts to address the unique challenges presented by homelessness in rural places. Sign up online to receive email notices when new issues are published.

20 Years of Rural Voices

What a Difference 20 Years Makes

This edition, “20 Years of Rural Voices,” highlights and revisits a selection of articles published over the past two decades.

View from Washington

Let’s Recommit to Rural America
by Congressman Bennie Thompson

Rep. Bennie Thompson challenges his colleagues in Congress to re-engage in the fight to keep successful federal rural housing programs alive.s

FEATURES

Self-Help Housing on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation: Alive and Well
by Leslie Newman

There is more than one way to design a self-help housing program, and collaboration between community organizations helps.

Still Ticking After All These Years: Low-Income Housing Tax Credits in Washington State
by Kim Herman

Tax credits have remained important in rural Washington, financing the production of thousands of homes.

Rural Midwest Housing Remains Complex and Diverse
by Ann Ziebarth and Jeff Crump

Whether growing, stable, or declining, rural communities in the Midwest face challenges in providing housing for lowincome residents.

The Housing Trust Fund Movement Spans the Country
by Mary Brooks

State and local housing trust funds continue to offer flexible funding for affordable housing across the country, and a national fund has been created as well.

Where You Live Matters: Fair Housing is Still the Law and Even Stronger
by Shanna Smith

The Fair Housing Act has been law since 1968, and new developments in 2015 have strengthened it.

Reflections on Cushing Dolbeare and Eleven Years of Housing Change
by Sheila Crowley

Cushing Dolbeare founded the National Low Income Housing Coalition; her legacy guides the organization years after her death.

20 Years Do Make a Difference
by Joe Belden

Many things have changed since 1995, says a veteran rural houser, but rural housing needs and solutions have never been partisan issues, and should not be now.


Rural Voices would like to hear what you have to say about one, or all, of these issues. Please feel free to comment on this story by sending a tweet to #RuralVoicesMag discuss on the Rural Affordable Housing Group on LinkedIn, or on our Facebook page.

HAC News: July 22, 2015

HAC News Formats. pdf

July 22, 2015
Vol. 44, No. 15

• Senate committee passes USDA FY16 spending bill • Small Building Risk Sharing Initiative launched • OMB issues 2015 Circular A-133 compliance supplement • HHUD requests comments on AFFH Assessment Tool • Child poverty persists, 2015 Kids Count data show • “50 Years, 50,000 Homes” celebrated in HAC’s magazine • HAC is hiring for three positions

HAC News Formats. pdf

July 22, 2015
Vol. 44, No. 15

SENATE COMMITTEE PASSES USDA FY16 SPENDING BILL. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved S. 1800 on July 16, with most rural housing program funding at the same levels as the measure passed by the House Appropriations Committee on July 8. Like the House bill, the Senate rejects a cut in Section 523 self-help funding, prohibits early renewal of Rental Assistance contracts that run out of funds before the end of their one-year terms, and does not impose a minimum rent on tenants. The Senate committee’s report says the committee has asked GAO to study maturing multifamily mortgages and to review USDA’s calculations of the amount of RA needed. It encourages USDA to continue its rental preservation efforts and tells the agency its FY17 budget request should show “the true amount needed to renew all expiring rental assistance contracts.” Floor votes have not been scheduled in either chamber. [tdborder][/tdborder]

USDA Rural Dev. Prog.
(dollars in millions)

FY13
Approp.a

FY14
Approp.

FY15
Approp.

FY16 Budget Proposal

FY16 House Cmte. Bill
(H.R. 3049)

FY16 Senate Cmte. Bill
(S. 1800)

502 Single Fam. Direct
Self-Help setaside

$900
5

$900
5

$900
5

$900
0

$900
5

$900
5

502 Single Family Guar.

24,000

24,000

24,000

24,000

24,000

24,000

504 VLI Repair Loans

28

26.3

26.3

26.3

26.3

26.3

504 VLI Repair Grants

29.5

28.7

28.7

26

28.7

28.7

515 Rental Hsg. Direct Lns.

31.3

28.4

28.4

42.3

28.4

28.4

514 Farm Labor Hsg. Lns.

20.8

23.9

23.6

23.9

23.9

23.6

516 Farm Labor Hsg. Grts.

7.1

8.3

8.3

8.3

8.3

8.3

521 Rental Assistance

907.1

1,110

1,089

1,172

1,167

1,167

523 Self-Help TA

30

25

27.5

10

27.5

27.5

533 Hsg. Prsrv. Grants

3.6

3.5

3.5

0

3.5

3.5

538 Rental Hsg. Guar.

150

150

150

200

150

200

Rental Prsrv. Demo. (MPR)

17.8

20

17

19

17

17

542 Rural Hsg. Vouchers

10

12.6

7

15

7

7

Rural Cmnty. Dev’t Init.

6.1

6

4

4

4

4

a. Figures shown do not include 5% sequester or 2.5% across the board cut.

SMALL BUILDING RISK SHARING INITIATIVE LAUNCHED. HUD is implementing an initiative proposed in 2013 (see HAC News, 11/13/13), to facilitate the financing of small multifamily properties through risk sharing. CDFIs, nonprofit lenders, and public and quasi-public agencies can apply at any time for designation as Qualified Participating Entities; for-profit lenders can apply beginning in January 2016. QPEs will underwrite, originate, and service loans for acquisition, refinancing, rehab, and/or equity take outs, but not new construction, up to $3 million (or $5 million in HUD-designated ‘‘High Cost Areas”). HUD will share 50% of the risk. Contact Diana Talios, HUD, 202-402-7125.

OMB ISSUES 2015 CIRCULAR A-133 COMPLIANCE SUPPLEMENT. The supplement will apply to audits of fiscal years beginning after June 30, 2014. Comments are due October 31. Contact a federal awarding agency.

HUD REQUESTS COMMENTS ON AFFH ASSESSMENT TOOL. Jurisdictions will use the tool for assessments required by HUD’s new Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule (see HAC News, 7/8/15). Comments are due August 17. Contact Camille E. Acevedo, HUD, 202-708-1793.

CHILD POVERTY PERSISTS, 2015 KIDS COUNT DATA SHOW. The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual research found improvements in child health and education, but the number of U.S. children living in high-poverty neighborhoods is the highest since 1990. One in four children in the U.S. lives in a low-income working family, and economic indicators are lowest for children of color. Data are presented for the U.S. and for each state, county, school district, and congresssional district.

“50 YEARS, 50,000 HOMES” CELEBRATED IN HAC’S MAGAZINE. The latest issue of Rural Voices marks the 50th anniversary of the self-help housing program and recognizes the achievements of the nonprofit sponsors, the USDA programs, and the families who have become successful homeowners. Sign up online to receive email notices when new issues are published.

HAC IS HIRING FOR THREE POSITIONS. HAC seeks a Housing Specialist in Albuquerque, Atlanta, Kansas City, Sacramento, or Washington, DC; a Loan Officer/Underwriter in Washington, DC; and a Development Manager in Washington, DC. Visit HAC’s website for job descriptions and application information.

50 Years, 50,000 Homes

A Half Century of Self-Help Housing Across Rural America

This edition of Rural Voices, “50 Years, 50,000 Homes,” celebrates the construction of the 50,000th self-help home to be built with USDA support and the achievements of the nonprofit sponsors, the USDA programs, and most importantly, the families who have become successful homeowners.

A Half Century of Self-Help Housing Across Rural America

Download a pdf version of Rural Voices
50 Years, 50,000 Homes

This edition of Rural Voices, “50 Years, 50,000 Homes,” celebrates the construction of the 50,000th self-help home to be built with USDA support and the achievements of the nonprofit sponsors, the USDA programs, and most importantly, the families who have become successful homeowners.

Views from Washington

Successful Federal-Local Partnerships
by U.S. Representative Harold “Hal” Rogers

Local partners help USDA housing programs make meaningful impacts to the lives of local rural residents

Neighbors Helping Neighbors Build a Better Life
by U.S. Representative Sam Farr

A program that helped create the real American Dream for over 50 years.

With Many Dedicated Partners, USDA Helps 50,000 Families Achieve the American Dream
by Secretary Tom Vilsack

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack discusses USDA’s Self-Help Housing Program.

FEATURES

So Much Progress, So Much Left To Do!
by Peter Carey

A simple concept still holds promise in a complicated housing world

Looking Back: The Beginnings and Evolution of USDA’s Self-Help Housing Movement
by Bob Marshall

Early efforts in rural California became a Self-Help Housing model for the nation

Building Forward: Self-Help For All
by Russell Huxtable

Let’s build on fifty years of history and expand this life changing program!

Self-Help Housing Changed Our Lives
by Noelle McKay and Stefanie Kompathoum

Families share their experience with the Self-Help Housing Program

An Emerging Self-Help Leader
by Mi’shell French

Discusses personal growth and sustaining the momentum through Self-Help Housing

Self-Help Housing and “SHOP” in the Rio Grande Valley
by Nancy Hanson

HUD’s Self -Help Homeownership Opportunity Program helps make self-help building sites affordable

Technical Assistance is the Essential Ingredient to Self-Help Housing
by Suzy Huard

USDA’S Section 523 Technical Assistance Grants make Mutual Self-Help housing possible

Expanding Service in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
by Mike Shimon

A local Habitat for Humanity provider reaches more families using the USDA Mutual Self-Help program

Neither Wind, Nor Rain…Can Stop a Determined Self-Help Provider
by Linda Smith

A local nonprofit is up to the challenge when disaster strikes twice.

Additional Content

Celebrating 50 Years of helping families help themselvesCelebrating 50 Years of helping families help themselves.(8.5″ X 11″ printable pdf)

Celebrating 50 Years of helping families help themselves.(25.5″ X 11″ original document)

Rural Voices would like to hear what you have to say about one, or all, of these issues. Please feel free to comment on this story by sending a tweet to #RuralVoicesMag, discuss on the Rural Affordable Housing Group on LinkedIn, or on our Facebook page.

Self-Help, Sweat Equity, and Success

“I’m looking forward to spending whatever days I have, God bless me, in that house.”
– Kay Panteah, Zuni Tribal Member & Homebuyer

by BC Echohawk, National American Indian Housing Council (NAIHC)

Rural Voices - Fall 2014This story appears in the Fall 2014 issue of Rural VoicesThe Zuni Pueblo sits in the far western edge of New Mexico, forty miles away from Interstate 40, the major East-West corridor through the state. Kay Panteah is a tribal member and has lived in the area her whole life. The remote location has never factored into the 54-year old’s decision to remain in the community. Her parents were born and raised there, and she continued to live and care for her aging mother in the family home along with several siblings until their growing families created a need to find a place of her own. When the Pueblo of Zuni Housing Authority advised the single-mother of four that she had qualified for a rental home through their program, she never dreamed that that move would lead to owning her own home.

Kay Panteah speaks excitedly from the offices of the Pueblo of Zuni Housing Authority (ZHA) as she joins their Mortgage Coordinator Lorelei Sanchez to discuss her journey from renter to homebuyer. Given this opportunity to share the success of programs aimed specifically at Indians in rural communities, she’s eager to tell her story. Lorelei stands by, ready to fill in program information or nudge her memory as it becomes clear that these two women have created a strong bond in what has been a 14-year quest for stability and self-sufficiency.

“I LIVE FOR MY KIDS”

Kay describes her family: Oldest son Kardie Panteah is 36, and with his wife, has four children of his own, two adopted. He lives and works in the Pueblo of Zuni as a firefighter and EMT. Having mentioned an older daughter, Kay clarifies, without hesitation or judgment, that 26-year old Danii Panteah is transgender and her “special child.” Danii pursued post-secondary education in psychology and is currently working as a retail salesclerk. Twenty-three year old daughter Kimberly Kallestewa received a certification in Business Administration through Job Corps after finishing high school. She is looking for a job and expecting a child this fall. Kay’s youngest son, Jordan, 17, is finishing his senior year at Ramah High School near the Zuni Pueblo. They have all been high achievers academically, and were all chosen to participate in the local Boys’ State, a national program (with a girls affiliate program) of the American Legion that teaches high school students about how local, state and national government works. “I live for my kids,” says Kay. “So, what I do is practically just for them.”

USDA Rural Housing Service Administrator Tony Hernandez visits with the Panteahs USDA Rural Housing Service Administrator Tony Hernandez visits with the Panteahs

It was this desire to provide a better home for her children that introduced her to affordable housing. A self-employed silversmith and retail salesclerk, Kay’s father died when she was only twelve. Her mother raised her and her siblings alone, and Kay never felt a need to leave the familiar community. She participates in the local traditional tribal and religious activities, and loves helping other families who also take part. However, she admits that times have changed, and safety has become a concern. Doors that once remained opened are now routinely locked. Young people with too much time on their hands and not enough to do roam the community well into the night. Security has stepped up and curfews have been enforced in the past few years. While these measures have helped, the community continues to change as outside media and values become more accessible and common.

In a situation not uncommon in Indian communities, Kay was living with her mother and some of her six siblings in the four-bedroom family home. She had been her mother’s primary caregiver, but as her older brother and sister’s families grew, she knew she would have to make a change. She applied to ZHA for a rental home, and in 2000 learned that she qualified for low-rental housing through them. “[T]he saddest thing was that I had to leave my mom.” says Kay. The rental home was eight miles away from her mother’s home, and she had never lived that far away. However, Kay’s children were all still living with her at this time, and knowing that the move would offer them more room made the change easier.

“I WISH I COULD…BUY A HOME”

In 2000, Kay moved with her four children into a four-bedroom home provided by ZHA. In addition to houses, ZHA also has apartment communities available to qualified low and moderate income renters. Kay was in this first house until 2010 when she moved to an adjacent home to allow for renovations to the housing authority’s inventory. During her time in the rental unit, due to some delinquency issues, it was recommended that Kay attend a financial literacy program that ZHA sponsored. This is where she met Lorelei Sanchez, ZHA’s Mortgage Coordinator and the instructor for their financial literacy classes. The women’s admiration for each other is evident as Lorelei explains that program, their meeting, and how Kay made such an impression on her, that retelling Kay’s story would lead to the Zuni program receiving the first American Indian-focused Self-Help program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development agency.

In explaining the financial literacy program, Lorelei notes the diverse people who attend those sessions, including renters, first-time homebuyers and members of the Zuni community whose goal is to create sound financial habits for their families. Spending and budgeting is discussed keeping in mind the reality of commitments to the traditional calendar that tribal members follow. Their year begins with the winter solstice and related celebrations. This, merged with the western calendar of holidays, can strain budgets, and attendees are taught how to prioritize and set goals and limits for their families. It was while discussing such goals, that Kay made clear her wish to own a home. The sincerity of this wish was not lost on Lorelei.

Given this opportunity to share the success of programs aimed specifically at Indians in rural communities, [Kay Panteah] is eager to tell her story

In 2011, the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority (NMMFA) was approached by USDA’s Rural Development program. They wanted a recommendation of a native community that might be in a position to utilize their Self-Help program. Eric Schmieder with NMMFA knew that Zuni was preparing to start a construction project and that they also had the capacity and resources needed to successfully qualify for the Self-Help funding. After Rural Development contacted the Zuni, and it was decided the housing authority would administer the program, ZHA director Michael Chavez tapped Lorelei to write the proposal. She still remembers her hesitation, as this was her first attempt at preparing a proposal. The Little Dixie Community Action Agency provided her technical assistance, however, and they recommended that Lorelei think of a client whose story she could tell. “[Kay] came to my mind just like that.” says Lorelei. Sharing Kay’s story became an important part of ZHA receiving their funding, and Lorelei admits she was amazed that they received the grant. In retelling the story she asks rhetorically, “And guess where I go knocking?” “My door,” Kay answers, and quietly repeats “My door. That was the happiest day of my life.”

“THE HOME I BUILT”

The agreement between Rural Development and the Pueblo of Zuni Housing Authority was signed in January, 2012. Lorelei helped Kay through the pre-qualification process for her new home, and the results came back positive with just a few outstanding debts. As luck would have it, the timing was in Kay’s favor, as it was tax season. Normally, she would have used her tax return for a belated Christmas for her children. This year, though, Lorelei spoke with Kay’s children and suggested they let their mother know that having a new home would be a better Christmas present. They did, and Kay agreed. Kay used that year’s refund to clear those debts, thereby allowing her to move forward with construction.

Kay Panteah and family working on homeKay Panteah and family working on home

The groundbreaking was in May 2012, what was intended to be an eight-month process took over a year to see completion. Three houses were planned in the first round of construction, with each of them to be occupied by single mothers with families who were all former renters turned homeowners. Lorelei explains that as this was a new project for ZHA, there was a learning curve they worked through that caused some delays. Additionally, as can happen when working with construction in any federally-recognized Indian community, there were leasing issues related to building on tribal land that created obstacles. This issue caused a several-month delay in building. As soon as she was allowed, however, Kay was at the work site with her family, putting in the 600 hour sweat-equity requirement on her home. While technical work such as plumbing and electricity was contracted, the remaining tasks of framing, pouring concrete, digging trenches and putting up drywall are left to the homeowner. A construction supervisor was always at one of the three construction sites, providing training and direction to the families.

The process has empowered her, and she knows the other two participants feel the same

Kay had already gotten the commitment of her children and older grandchildren that they would help with the construction, but it was still an arduous process. They worked most days, despite the weather, and despite the fact that they lived ten miles away from their new home and sometimes didn’t have gas to make it to the site. On these days, they informed the construction supervisor so that he could go to another site and assist there. Following days that they missed, they would come to the site and work longer hours to make up for lost time. The other two families who were also working on homes helped her when they could, as she helped them when needed. Once the frame was up, however, Kay knew she would finish. It was then that she could “see” her completed home.

A low-point came when Kay was laid off from her retail job. In fact, all three of the women who were participating in the program were laid off in a short time span. Fearing this would affect her participation in the program, Kay went immediately to Lorelei to let her know. While this was discouraging news for all three women, Lorelei knew they had to move forward and encouraged Kay to begin the unemployment process immediately. She did, and in doing so was motivated to press on. Fortunately for Kay, she had the traditional skill of silversmithing to fall back on. She acknowledges that having completed the physical aspect of the project and overcoming all the obstacles that delayed construction, she has gained experience in how to properly finish a project of any kind; how planning and flexibility allow one to move forward. The process has empowered her, and she knows the other two participants feel the same way. Their work together has bonded them and created lasting friendships.

“MY NEW HOME”

In her position with the housing authority, Lorelei is able to see the bigger picture: success with the Self-Help program at Zuni will show the USDA that tribal communities can also manage the program and it will allow for more housing resources in Indian Country. For her first three participants, however, the benefits will be immediate and personal. The project came in under budget, so Kay’s mortgage payment will be lower than anticipated. Renters will be home owners, rent payments are now mortgage payments and reliance becomes self-sufficiency. Lorelei knows that Kay’s journey to home ownership began with the Financial Literacy class. Her rent payment had never been her priority, but after completing the class, Kay knew what she needed to do to realize the wish of owning her own home. The class gave her perspective and hope. It laid the foundation that allowed her to see what she could achieve.

As for Kay, on July 24 she received the keys to her new home. She admits it was an emotional process with ups and downs, but she also acknowledges that there were always people there who were willing to help and who did help. She remains grateful for the opportunity to participate in the project, and having built a home, she now looks forward to starting a small business in her community. “Never give up,” says Kay. “There’s always hope on the other side.”

The National American Indian Housing Council (NAIHC): The only national, 501(c)(3) corporation representing housing interests of Native people who reside in Indian communities, Alaska Native Villages, and on native Hawaiian Home Lands. NAIHC advocates for housing opportunities and increased funding for Native Americans; provides training and technical assistance to managers and professionals from Native housing programs; and conducts research related to Native housing issues and counseling programs, as well as loan products.

The Power of Working Together

Three families share their experiences with USDA’s Mutual Self-Help Housing Program

Rural Voices - Fall 2014This story appears in the Fall 2014 issue of Rural Voices

Mutual Self-Help is a USDA Rural Development program administered by community-based nonprofit housing organizations that makes housing affordable through “sweat equity”. Families work together as a group to build approximately 65 percent of their homes. This labor not only acts as the down payment, but can substantially reduce the price of the home. However, it is hard work and it does require commitment. Households work together, with each family contributing a minimum of 35 hours of labor per week for approximately 8 to 12 months. The homes are built simultaneously; no one moves in until all the homes are completed.

Dillan and Lacie; Rebecca; and Anita and Robbie all participated in the Neighborhood Nonprofit Housing Corporation (NNHC) mutual self-help program. Below each family recounts their challenges, successes, and experiences building their own home and helping other families build theirs.

How did you first hear about self-help housing?

Dillan: When attending school, Lacie and I had no thoughts of buying, let alone, building a brand new house. Because I am a student, the idea of securing a home loan was near impossible, until we heard about Neighborhood Nonprofit’s housing program. A family member mentioned to me an advertisement they had seen in the newspaper one day and I just stopped in the office to see what it was about. Ten months later here we are in the final stages of building our beautiful new home. The process was very simple to qualify for the program and the Neighborhood Nonprofit staff was very helpful.

Dillan and Lacie are both originally from Cache Valley, UT and wanted to raise their children there. Lacie is a stay at home mom. Dillan is a returning student at Utah State University and plans to be a teacher.Dillan and Lacie are both originally from Cache Valley, UT and wanted to raise their children there. Lacie is a stay at home mom. Dillan is a returning student at Utah State University and plans to be a teacher.

Rebecca: I had previously heard about Self-Help housing a couple of years before applying, but I did not want to make such a major decision so soon after my husband’s death. I also didn’t see how I would be able to put in the time needed to build as a single mother. It wasn’t until after I tried unsuccessfully to find affordable housing for my family that I decided to throw in my application and see what happened.

Anita: We heard about the Self-Help program from one of my husband’s coworkers. They had built in the nearby town of Nibley, UT. We decided to look into the program after looking for houses to buy became discouraging. We knew that my staying at home with our children would make it difficult to afford one. We were also excited about the opportunity to learn the skills involved with building a house. We are grateful we learned these skills because we feel more prepared to maintain our home.

What was the construction process like?

Anita: During the time we built, life was so busy! I was pregnant when we started, so my husband did most of the work for the first several months. Life was hard but we were excited for the end result. It took our group ten months to finish all our homes. We worked with really great people. Everyone had the same attitude to work on each other’s home like it was their own. This created a positive working environment. I would say the hardest challenge we faced was everyone getting burned out and not working as fast as we had hoped. I was glad to be able to go out and work too. Working together on our home taught us a lot and was a great benefit to us recently when we finished our basement.

Dillan: While the qualification process was simple, the building process has not been quite as simple. Building each home together has been challenging and rewarding at the same time. The families in our group have worked so hard together and have accomplished so much. The program has not been easy, but it has been worth it. I believe that each family will leave the program with a greater sense of community and friendship because of the hard work that everyone has endured.

Rebecca: My youngest was only three when I started building! Since my oldest was just 12, I was the only one in our family that was able to work on the homes. To be honest, it was a difficult process for me to build; besides having five children and no spouse, I am a student at Utah State University. A typical day would start at 4:30 a.m. I had to get up that early to get everything ready for the day, including dropping off my children at school and getting myself to class. After school was out, I would have to rush to pick up my children and take them to a baby sitter (none of them were old enough to be on the site) and then get myself to the work site. I usually wouldn’t get home until after 10:00pm. I still had to put kids to bed, take a shower (get all the sawdust and grime off that I’m allergic to), and do regular household chores.

Rebecca is a widow with five children ages 16, 15, 12, 10, and 7, and is currently a student at Utah State University pursuing a degree in Social Work.Rebecca is a widow with five children ages 16, 15, 12, 10, and 7, and is currently a student at Utah State University pursuing a degree in Social Work.

What were your living conditions before and after your participation in the self-help program?

Rebecca: Before [the Self-Help program] we had been living in a three-bedroom apartment for about two years. It was definitely cramped; my two daughters shared one bedroom, and my three sons shared another bedroom. We all needed some personal space. In addition, the apartment would flood occasionally, so it had mold and mildew issues and smelled terrible. It was also where we were living when I lost my husband and the children lost their dad. That apartment created some difficult memories for us. It was really healthy, both physically and emotionally, for us to get out of that environment. Every day, I count my blessings – I have a house, a yard, and good neighbors. I love the neighborhood! One especially nice benefit to having our home is having a back-yard big enough to grow a garden. I could never afford to buy fresh produce for my family. Now, we eat fresh food that we’ve grown ourselves!

Anita: Before we built our house, we lived in a townhouse. The community was nice but the main thing that was missing was a private backyard. One of my favorite features of the program was being able to move in having our landscape and fences included in the building process. I love being able to send my own kids out to have fun in our large fenced-in area. One other major unexpected benefit to having a fenced-in backyard was that it helped my preschool business. My city requires all new preschools to have a fenced-in backyard. This could have been an expensive hurdle but thanks to the Self-Help specifications, this was included.

Gerber-family-cropped-webAnita and her husband Robbie have three children all under the age of six. Anita is a stay at home mom who started her own preschool business. Robbie is a conference coordinator for Utah State University.

Dillan: Before the Self-Help program and as students with a large family, our housing conditions have been, at times, hard to deal with. Now that we are able to have a home to call our own it has given our family and especially our children a place to feel comfortable and more importantly a place to stay for a long time. We now have a “Room with a View,” a place to grow together and create lasting memories.

What specific successes or challenges did you experience?

Dillan: A challenge we faced in our group was learning to work together on a home that wasn’t your own. The workmanship as well as the attitude of all the families involved improved once everyone truly figured out that no one could move in to their own homes before the other houses were completed. No work was completed without the thought of “If it was my home, would I do it like that?” When this concept was grasped, the work excelled in speed and accuracy. Although this and other things were challenges, the successes far exceeded them. A friendship has been made between the families as we worked hard together.

Rebecca: It took a lot of determination to get my weekly hours in and keep up with my other responsibilities. Because it is easier to meet the time requirements if the family is a two parent household (it’s estimated that both husband and wife can come in together one day a week), I had to go in outside of the group’s regular work hours in order to work my full 35 hours per week. During the building process, I had to have two surgeries on my broken leg. While on crutches, and not allowed on site, I had good people that helped donate hours so I could keep up.

I love the neighborhood. I got to know my neighbors really well while we built – both the good and the bad! We learned to work with everyone’s personalities, and I think we learned the importance of not saying things we would regret later. Now, we have a real sense of taking care of each other. It is like having a built-in Neighborhood Watch Program! I have developed some very good friendships from the time we spent building together.

Anita: We are very grateful to have been able to build our home through the Mutual Self Help process. We learned a lot from our construction supervisor and have a lot of respect for him. He made sure things were done the right way. The process was hard; but worth it because we not only got a beautiful home but gained knowledge and friendships.

My father passed away a couple months into the building process. It was very unexpected and very difficult. Because we had to travel to the funeral, the people in our group told us they would donate any hours we needed to cover our weekly hours. Our group was very generous and kind. We truly appreciated them. We know these families care about us. On the anniversary of our open house, we always have a get-together to celebrate. We love the families we built with!

Neighborhood Nonprofit Housing Corporation (NNHC): A Utah-based nonprofit committed to creating quality affordable housing opportunities in their communities and giving households skills necessary to become self-sufficient. NNHC offers programs such as mutual self-help housing, and housing and foreclosure counseling, and as well as loan products.