The History of SHE’s Housing Rehabilitation Program

The History of SHE’s Housing Rehabilitation Program

Posted on June 3, 2024

As Self-Help Enterprises (SHE) celebrates its 60th anniversary, we take pride in reflecting on the roots and history of our cornerstone programs. This month, we focus on our Housing Rehabilitation Program, a vital part of our mission to improve neighborhoods through affordable housing solutions.     

The Beginnings: A Vision for Better Homes  

Recognizing the urgent need to preserve and improve existing housing stock for low-income families, SHE expanded its efforts beyond the construction of single-family homes to include rehabilitation projects. In June 1974, SHE launched the effort to preserve and improve existing housing stock, an essential part of meeting the housing needs of low-income households. With initial funding of $30,955 from the newly established Tulare County Community Action Program, SHE embarked on a demonstration housing rehabilitation project. Bill Lovett was appointed to manage the project, with labor contributions from local families and a dedicated group of VISTA volunteers. 

“SHE is based on a great and simple concept: families working together to build their own homes can do so with a bit of technical and human support,” said past Executive Director Bob Marshall, who held the position for 23 years. “In addition to new home construction, over the years home rehabilitation, home repairs and weatherization, multi-family rental units, largely for farmworkers, and new and improved sewer and water systems for rural communities have been added to the scope of work.” 

The CETA Era: Training and Transformation  

The availability of funds through the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) in 1974 proved pivotal. By the end of the decade, CETA had become a critical source of labor for the Housing Rehabilitation Program. This federal program facilitated training in construction and related skills for CETA-supported staff, who in turn provided labor for the rehabilitation projects. By 1980, SHE had 136 CETA trainees and nine supervisory staff funded by CETA, significantly boosting the program’s capacity. By then under the leadership of Program Director Peter Carey, SHE’s success was rooted in a dual focus on construction quality and training excellence. Despite its achievements, the CETA program was dismantled in 1981.   

Expansion and Evolution 

Over the years, the Housing Rehabilitation Program evolved to include two major components: Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) contracts with cities and counties, and low-income weatherization contracts. SHE collaborates with small communities to develop funding proposals under the CDBG program and then implements and manages the housing rehabilitation efforts. Partnerships with private utilities as well as federal and state programs enabled SHE to offer low-income families free weatherization services, including insulation, caulking, weatherstripping, and window repair.   

In the early days, self-help participation by homeowners was a core element of the housing rehabilitation program. With the rise of CDBG-funded projects staffed largely by CETA trainees, the focus shifted slightly, but participant involvement remained encouraged. While SHE crews handled most construction labor, participating households often contributed to finishing touches and cleanup. Later, when SHE began to utilize private contractors rather than managing its own work crews, the sweat equity component eventually became too difficult to promote and manage.

“Please accept our special thanks to everyone involved in the rehabilitation of our home,” said William Floyd, a rehabilitation program participant. “We are very proud and satisfied with the work you have done. Self-Help has our greatest respect.” 

Reflecting upon the roots and history of the Housing Rehabilitation Program, we see a legacy of innovation, community involvement, and unwavering commitment to improving lives through housing. Nearly 7,000 homes have been rehabilitated through our efforts, with a significant number of seniors on fixed incomes, farmworker households, and extremely low-income families assisted. From its humble beginnings with VISTA volunteers and CETA trainees to its expansive impact today, the program embodies the spirit of Self-Help Enterprises.  

Stay tuned for next month’s newsletter, where we will focus on celebrating the accomplishments of our current Housing Rehabilitation Program – highlighting what has been achieved so far and the success of our rehab efforts. 

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