USDA Self-Help

Build Your New Home With No Money Down!

USDA Self-Help organizes neighbors to work together to build their homes.  “Sweat equity” is your down payment toward a subsidized mortgage that is often less than monthly rents.
  No construction experience needed!

About The USDA Self-Help Program

The USDA Self-Help Housing Program began over 60 years ago and is similar to the “barn raisings” of the Quakers where neighbors build their neighborhoods together. Family Construction Coordinators guide groups of six to ten families in the construction of their new homes. Because no construction experience is necessary participants can enlist friends and family to help.

How Does It Work?

Determination and Hard Work Build Equity in Your New Home!

  • USDA Mutual Self-Help is funded by The U.S. Department of Agriculture. 
  • Participants contribute a minimum of 600 hours of “sweat equity” in the construction of their homes as well as the other homes in the neighborhood.  This is a measurable cost saving towards the mortgage of each participant. Volunteers such as extended family members, friends, church members, co-workers are welcome to help families accomplish their labor requirements. Families perform a variety of basic and semi-skilled tasks, such as painting, construction, debris removal, landscaping, etc. Families also learn new skills related to green building, energy efficiency, home maintenance and money management. Once all construction for a group is completed, everyone receives keys to their respective homes, thus, creating an instant community.

Do I Qualify?

Homeowner Eligibility Requirements:

  • Qualify as a first-time homebuyer (never owned a home before OR have not owned property in the last three years)
  • Earn minimum annual household income of $26,500.00*
  • Have an annual household income at or below 80% of the Area Median Income for the county where you will purchase the home (see chart here )
  • Have good or repairable credit
  • Have a good landlord history
  • Be willing to work a minimum of 600 hours to build your new home
  • A limited number of lots have been set aside for clients with incomes over 80% of the median income. These homes have different labor requirements, separate pricing and special financing. Contact the office for details.

Check out our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ and ‘Other Features’ to learn more about FHP’s Self-help Home Ownership Program. To request a packet and make an appointment, call 813.672.7889 or email info@FLHome.org

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Common Area Tasks Throughout Construction Process:

  • Remove dirt and debris from roadways, curbs and alleys.
  • Mow and weed common community areas.
  • Each week, pick up trash around perimeter of community, ponds and other common areas.
  • Remove silt buildup at storm drains.
  • Remove silt buildup inside storm basins.
  • Irrigate common landscaping.
  • Perform routine pond maintenance.

*The FHP Home Buyer Task List is subject to change without advanced notice.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

In most cases good credit means that you have established a history of paying your debts on time. It also means that you have no unpaid bills that are in collection. The lender, USDA, is lending you a large sum of money to purchase this home, and they want to know that you are responsible enough with your current bills to show that you will be responsible paying your mortgage on time. Your long-term debts such as car payments, credit cards, furniture rentals, student loans, etc. must be current and fit within certain income ratios.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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FHP is using innovative materials to build high quality homes that are designed to save you money on the lifetime of the home.

Please download the PDF to view all Standard Features

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Homes available in the low $200,000’s

Did You Know? Many of Our Employees are USDA Self-Help Graduates!

We feel it is a testament to the success of the Self-Help Housing Program that our clients believe in the program enough
to want to help others achieve their
homeownership dreams!