From volunteer to owner | USDA

Posted by Jessica Mancel, USDA Rural Public Information Officer in Rural Areas

June 23, 2021

Richard Norman, 72, has long wanted to own a home and move to a safer neighborhood. Unfortunately, he was unable to get a loan from the bank. He wasn’t sure his dream of owning a home would come true.

One day, while volunteering for Habitat for Humanity where his brother worked, Richard met homeowners who had participated in the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Mutual Self-Help Housing program to rural development. Curious and inspired, Richard volunteered to help program participants build their homes.

Richard learned that participants in the Mutual Self-Help Housing program provide most of the construction labor for their new homes, which allows the USDA to directly provide them with affordable, no-down, and non-down payment loans. low interest in buying the houses they helped build.

That was it! Richard saw the perfect opportunity to finally own his own home. He applied and two years later moved into a house that he and his neighbors had built with their own hands.

“This program has changed my life because it’s about helping those around you,” said Richard. “The most rewarding thing is working with people on the job site because everyone comes together in unity and a sense of family. “

The program is not a cake. Participants must contribute 30 hours of work per week, and the houses take months to build. However, Richard will tell you that when he finally handed over the keys to a new home, a sense of eternal pride accompanies the words “I did it”. On top of that, the participants shed their blood, sweat and tears to build their homes for each other, turning strangers into a tight-knit community.

“I want everyone to know that you will end up smiling,” said Richard. “Happiness and joy are now mine because [the Mutual Self-Help Program] it is “a bomb!”

Richard Norman, owner and Mutual Self-Help Housing participant, shows off his new home

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