By Megan Harrison, USDA Rural Development Public Relations Intern
As part of USDA Rural Development celebrating June as National Homeownership Month, I travelled to Carlock, Ill., to visit the site of six brand-new homes. These weren’t just ordinary homes, however. Not only were they “green” homes, but they were part of a self-help project where the families helped each other build the homes.
Rural Development partnered on the homes with YouthBuild McLean County, a non-profit organization whose mission includes training their students to rehabilitate and build affordable homes in a community. Our agency supports YouthBuild with grants to supervise and assist homeowners during construction and educate them on insurance, maintenance and other skills needed to be successful homeowners. YouthBuild students and new homeowners shared the same goal: building a home.
The six homeowners and their families attended the event, two of them giving us guided tours of their homes. The new homeowners were so proud of the hard work and care they put into their new homes. As they helped to build their homes, they earned “sweat equity” along the way, which qualified as down payment on their home loans. This was truly an enlightening concept for me. By putting in manual labor, the homeowners are able to pay less cash for their homes!
Each family gave us a glimpse of how they plan to enjoy their homes. It was hard not to get excited for them as they described the features of their new homes. From interior decorating ideas to backyard landscaping, no stone would be left unturned. The homeowners had such big smiles on their faces; you could tell they were ecstatic about such a big accomplishment.
Owning a home was a new experience to all of them, so moving into a neighborhood with friendships they already made during the building process was comforting. They talked amongst themselves about helping each other out with future projects in one another’s homes, such as finishing a basement. I’m sure they will approach the next homeowner task with the “can-do” attitude they no doubt got from building their homes.