What is the Mutual Self-Help Housing Program?

The Mutual Self-Help Housing Program allows first-time home buyers to purchase a home of their own with no cash down payment. Through the program, low-income home buyers exchange 600 hours of their labor, commonly called “sweat equity,” for a down payment on a newly constructed home that is purchased below market-rate. Mutual Self-Help Housing Program participants work together with other families in a group sharing in all phases of their home’s construction. The labor involves all types of unskilled and semi-skilled construction activities that substantially reduce the construction costs while instilling pride in ownership. This labor allows the participants to purchase homes below-market prices with no down payment.

How did the USDA Self-Help program start?

The mutual self-help “sweat equity” concept is not new. Mutual self-help started with the Quakers. In Quaker communities, neighbors would work together to build barns, homes, and other outbuildings quickly and efficiently with the help of all the neighboring farmers. Neighbors supplied labor to help each other. The favors were repaid when the farmers helped each other build barns on each others land.

Is this program available in Hillsborough County?

Yes it is. However, a key ingredient to the program is that it is designed for rural areas. Southern Hillsborough County is designated as rural by the USDA. The City of Tampa, Temple Terrace, Brandon and Plant City are considered “urban” and are not eligible for this program. Florida Home Partnership is always looking for available land to develop new communities in designated areas. As the region has grown, new changes to zoning in Southern Hillsborough County create challenges for keeping the Self-Help program accessible and affordable to residents.

What are the requirements to qualify?

To qualify for the Mutual Self-Help Housing Program you must be a first-time buyer, have good or repairable credit, and your total household income must be under 80% of the designated County’s median income. You must also be willing to contribute a minimum 600 hours of labor on your new home. Applicants must also have a minimum of two years good employment and rental histories.

In the early 1960’s, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was determined to find ways to improve the housing problems facing Americans living in rural communities. The USDA saw merit in this type of “community building” where the energies and dreams of families were harnessed in a way that mirrored the concept of “barn-raising.” The USDA developed the 502 Direct Loan that provides a source of financing to pay for land, materials, supplies, and technical labor not supplied by the families.

Who is considered a first-time home buyer?

A first-time home buyer is someone who has never owned a home before, OR has not owned a home for the last 3 years.

What is the role of Florida Home Partnership?

We are a non-profit organization funded by grants from USDA and Hillsborough County. Our mission is to provide outreach and recruiting functions to find interested applicants for the self-help housing program. After we make a determination that an applicant is “eligible”, we put together a complete loan docket and submit it to USDA for loan “underwriting” and approval. Once the loan is approved, we provide the technical assistance necessary for you to build your home. We are also available for a limited amount of counseling for home ownership (e.g., overcoming adverse credit, identifying employment opportunities and related issues). Also, should an owner have problems making payments on his / her new home, we will help the family explore options.

Are there limitations to what I can do with my house?

Yes and no. The houses are modest homes, and they are designed to meet the long-term needs of applicants and their families. You have a choice of finish colors (within certain guidelines), and you may choose from variety of paint colors, carpet, and cabinet finishes. During the construction process we tend to require conformity to commonly accepted building products and procedures.

Once your house is completed, it is your home to do with as you please within regulations of the Property Owners Association. The USDA or American Momentum Bank is the mortgage lender on your house, so they have certain requirements that must be followed. All lenders have general requirements for maintenance, continued insurance, etc. Usually, the homes must be owner occupied, and not available for lease or rental.

What are the houses like?

We currently have multiple house plans available. Typically, the houses are 3, 4 and 5 bedroom homes with 2 bathrooms and 1 or 2 car garages. Some are built with concrete block, and other construction-grade materials. “Construction-grade material” is designed to meet the average life expectancy and performance of its type. Homes are designed to meet Florida’s building codes, and be energy-efficient, functional, and give many years of service with proper maintenance.

How do I apply?

You must make an appointment with one of our Loan Specialists. Please bring all the items listed on the Required Documents for Application (cherry red sheet) with you to your appointment.

Make An Appointment

What if I have other questions?

Please call Florida Home Partnership at 813-672-7889.