Fall 2003
Housing Assistance Council
This issue of Rural Voices, the magazine of the Housing Assistance Council, celebrates the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's self-help housing program. Collective homebuilding and community barnraising are ancient concepts, and self-help construction relies on the same community spirit. Owners help to build their own homes and, in some cases, their neighbors' homes as well. Organized self-help developments were constructed in the United States as early as the 1930s, but over the past 40 years much of this country's use of the self-help model has been made possible by USDA's support. The USDA self-help program enables families to contribute "sweat equity" to their homes in lieu of down payments. Without this opportunity, many low-income families would be unable to afford their dreams of homeownership. This issue begins with an overview by Art Garcia, administrator of USDA's Rural Housing Service. The next pieces provide the perspectives of those who were present at the beginning of USDA's program, including one of the first three self-help builders who still lives in the home her family helped to construct in Goshen, Calif. in 1963. One of the four regional contractors explains his organization's role, and local sponsoring organizations from each region describe their experiences with the program.
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