Self-Help Enterprises pioneered the concept of organized mutual self-help housing construction in the United States. With skilled onsite supervision of SHE construction staff, families participate directly in the construction of their own homes. The cost savings –"sweat equity" provides the down payment on each home.
The participation of SHE in the process is from start to finish. In predevelopment, staff works to market the program, provide homeownership training, develop building groups into effective teams, and assist eligible families in the submission of loan applications.
Generally, 10 to 12 families are formed into a group which pools its labor - no one moves in until all the houses are completed. During the typical ten-month construction period, families dig and form foundations, pour and finish concrete, frame the walls and install doors, windows and electrical wiring, lay floor tile and paint inside and out.
To be eligible, an applicant must have a good employment history, clean credit, and the ability and willingness to meet the labor requirements. House plans are modest yet attractive, ensuring that participating homebuilders invest their labor and money into a home which will hold its value.
Most often, mortgage loans are secured from the USDA's Rural Development Services (RD), the federal agency which also covers the costs of SHE's technical assistance to the participants. SHE also coordinates financing through other lenders such as California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA), state programs, and local redevelopment agencies to assist additional homebuilders.
Through the self-help housing program, SHE is able to help over 100 low-income families a year realize what once seemed an impossible dream - living in a home of their own.