Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Casa Grande Creates Sweat Equity

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Casa Grande Creates Sweat Equity

Article excerpt

For some, the American dream of homeownership is inconceivable. However, agencies like the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-Rural Development and its predecessor, Farmers Home Administration, have opened the doors to residents in Arizona by providing loans to low-income families.

Casa Grande, Ariz., a city of about 25,000, and runner-up for the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials' (NBC-LEO) 1996 Diversity Award, is a strong advocate for helping citizens reach their dream of homeownership.

The Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization (HNR) Division of Casa Grande has established a comprehensive neighborhood development plan called the Mutual Self-Help Housing Program. The execution of the program began as a step toward upgrading socioeconomic development and living conditions in Casa Grande.

With assistance from the USDA and Mutual Self-Help Housing Program, residents have built more than houses--they have strengthened their community through joint ventures. USDA provides funding with the provision that a minimum of 65 percent of the labor necessary to build the homes be contributed by program participants.

The homes are usually built on lots scattered throughout the city. Eight to ten families collectively help to construct their neighborhood homes through what the program refers to as "sweat equity." Homeowners earn their down-payment by working after hours and on weekends to frame, landscape and finish constructing their home and their participating neighbors' homes, "Casa Grande-style"--by hand.

"We know it would be no easy task to bring families of all different walks of work together and learn the construction skills necessary to complete their homes; all this while maintaining their regular paying jobs and family life during the 10 to 12 months it would take for completion," said HNR Director Rosa Bruce. …

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