Urban and Rural Development

By Staff

Vol. 2, No. 2., 1979, pp. 21

People who help each other build their homes save more than $8,000 in construction costs according to a survey released by Rural America.

The survey of the 1978 operations of 57 mutual self-help housing projects shows the average cost of the 773 houses built by the self-help method was $24,300. The cost of a comparable contractor-built house was $32,900. Result: a saving of $8,600 on a three-bedroom, woodframe house with 1,071 square feet of living space.

The average family of four members worked 914 hours on their house over a 81/2 month period. The family provided 56.5 percent of the labor on the house. Women were responsible for nearly half (46 percent) of the family's work contribution. The average adjusted income of the families was $8,090.

Bad weather, loan processing delays and difficulty in finding building sites were the three biggest problems faced by the self-help participants.

The average technical assistance cost was $4,800 per house. Technical assistance cost is the cost of the project staff that helps the families organize, obtain site and construction loans and learn how to build houses. Technical assistance costs are paid by grants from the Farmers Home Administration and the Department of Labor, DOL grants are channeled through Rural America.

In the self-help housing program small groups of families work together to build houses. They receive technical assistance from a staff that usually consists of a project director, a construction supervisor and a group organizer. The families obtain loans from the Farmers Home Administration to purchase building sites, buy building materials and pay sub-contractors for doing part of the construction work.

Rural America is a nonprofit membership organization set up to give people in rural areas and small towns a stronger voice in Washington. One of the main concerns of Rural America is farmworker housing. With funds from the Department of Labor, Rural America finances the administrative costs of community based non-profit organizations that help farm workers obtain decent shelter. Rural America also provides training and technical assistance to groups interested in the organization and management of self-help housing projects.

For a copy of the self-help report "1978 Survey - Self-Help Housing Projects" contact Linda Rule at the Rural America office at 1346 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036 or call 202-659-2800. A copy costs $1.00.