Self-Help Housing Programs Make Good Neighbors
In this 50th anniversary year of the Self-Help Housing program nationwide, the Self-Help Housing Corporation of Hawaii (SHHCH) launched its 50th project in the 50th State, a development of eight single-family homes for low-income families in Kapaa, Kauai, while also breaking ground for its newest project, the Maili Self-Help Housing Team 5 Project.
The new Maili neighborhood, the fifth at the Maili Self-Help Housing Subdivision, is being developed by SHHCH on 9.48 acres as a 201 (H) project in conjunction with the City and County of Honolulu and the state Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation (HHFDC). Twelve low-income families will build oneand two-story homes with three or four bedrooms for $285,000 fee simple.
SHHCH received financing from the Rural Community Assistance Corp., HHFDC, Bank of Hawaii, Housing Assistance Council, and the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Since 1984, when Executive Director Claudia Shay established the SHHCH in Hawaii, the program has made it possible for 627 low-income families on Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, and Maui to become successful homeowners. “I used mainland groups as a model for the program I introduced in Hawaii,” Shay said. “My first efforts were lobbying to develop affordable housing in Hawaii, which I felt was the state’s greatest need. We can see dramatic examples of how this is playing out today with increasing homelessness, and all the social problems that go along with it. As the Secretary of the National Rural Self-Help Housing Association, I was able to benefit from the experience of similar organizations. SHHCH was able to obtain land from public and private entities and has received significant assistance over the years from Realtors, developers and lenders, as well as federal, state and county housing agencies.”
Under the self-help housing method, each family contributes 32 hours a week of labor and helps others in the team build their houses. The team construction supervisors, many of whom are experienced contractors, teach the families all the necessary skills from layout to finish carpentry in a system that ensures all houses will be completed at the same time. The excavation, masonry, electrical, and plumbing work are sub-contracted out.
“In the Maili Team 5 Project, the families obtained financing from the RD 502 Loan Program in which the interest is subsidized and a rate of from 1 percent to 3.125 percent offered,” Shay explained. “The rate is then adjusted annually according to the family’s income.
“The threeand four-bedroom houses appraise at $415,000 — thereby providing more than $100,000 in equity up front. This equity not only supplants a down payment, but equates to immediate ‘wealth creation’ for the family. Our six-week home-ownership course, offered before the construction period by SHHCH staff, educates the self-help families on all the legal and financial responsibilities of homeownership to safeguard this equity.
“In Self-Help Housing projects, the low-income families not only achieve homeownership, but they build stable communities with well-maintained homes. The people in our new communities become good neighbors … even a kind of extended family. Their keiki grow up together. In this Maili project, I’m working with the children of people I met and mentored on homeownership 30 years ago.”