Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) announced today that Northwest Housing Development in Sumner was awarded a grant of $1,271,600 through the Rural Development agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help low-income families build homes in rural areas.  

In a letter of support for their application earlier this year, Smith wrote: “Affordable housing for lower-income housing is a challenge to all levels of government and our society.  The mutual self-help program administered by Northwest Housing Development is a proven success for providing low-income families affordable ownership at a savings to the federal government.”

“In rural America, many still wait for the opportunity to own a home. Mutual Self-Help Housing has provided that opportunity for more than 25,000 rural low-income and very low-income people. This is a new approach to low-income housing, focused on building communities and empowering them by putting a roof over the heads of those who need shelter, building financial equity for individuals and families, and creating homes and communities that are bound together by their common effort,” Smith said, hearing of the award.  “Our nation’s fire departments are the first responders into almost every emergency situation and this grant program is one of the ways that we can help to ensure their continued safety as they face a variety of threats.  This was a very competitive grant process and I am very pleased that the USDA has recognized the value of Northwest Housing’s work in the community and has elected to support their mission.”

USDA Rural Development, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provides qualified public and private nonprofit organizations with financing for effective programs of technical and supervisory assistance to help low-income families build homes in rural areas by the self-help method. This is the only means for many low-income households to obtain safe, sound and sanitary housing.

In the Mutual Self-Help Housing program, a group of 8-12 families and/or individuals work together under the guidance of a construction supervisor hired by a nonprofit housing developer (self-help grantee). These groups perform at least 65 percent of the construction work. By working together for 8 to 10 months, they complete all of their homes simultaneously; no one moves in until all the homes within the group are completed. 

Since its inception in 1971, the USDA Rural Housing Service Mutual Self-Help Housing Program has helped low- and very-low-income people to finance and build their homes. This program has developed an effective, dedicated nationwide network of families and individuals, nonprofit housing developers (grantees), technical assistance providers and USDA Rural Housing Service staffers. 

Those who participate in this program are unable to find a home they can afford, much less come up with a down payment. In the Mutual Self-Help Housing program, self-help groups build each other's homes. Their labor becomes their down payment, commonly referred to as “sweat equity.”  Hard work is the key, along with a willingness to work cooperatively with other participants. These groups share the common goal of home ownership and commit themselves to share in the work that will make that goal a reality.

Northwest Housing Development is a nonprofit housing organization in Sumner that organizes people who would otherwise not be able to afford a home into small groups of do-it-yourself builders who learn the basics of home building from professionals and then proceed to build their own neighborhoods.  They received $1,271,600 to provide technical assistance in recruitment, screening, loan packaging and related activities for prospective self-help housing applicants.  Under the terms of the grant, Northwest Housing will construct 57 homes in a 2-year period.