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How the program works

The Self-Help Program is administered by the East Missouri Action Agency in St. Francois, Washington, Ste. Genevieve, Madison, and Iron counties.

The program is designed to help families build their own homes when they are not able to get a conventional mortgage or set aside enough cash for a down payment. It helps participants get loans and counts as their &#8220sweat equity” toward the total cost of the home. Participants work as a group on all their houses and no one moves in until all the houses are completed.

Professionals teach participants the skills they need to build the houses and supervise their work. Participants or their volunteers must put in at least 22 hours per week on building construction. Those who fall 30 hours behind must make the time up before the group does any further work on their home. If participants fall 90 hours behind, they may be removed from the program.

The supervisors show participants how to construct walls, run electricity, install plumbing, hang doors, install windows, lay carpet, and perform other necessary skills to build the homes from scratch. Concrete work is hired out, and participants may opt to have professionals do the roofing.

To qualify for the program, applicants must meet certain income guidelines, may not have a home, and need not have children or be married. For example, a single person who makes less than $25,750 in adjusted income could qualify for the program, while a family of four is eligible with an adjusted income of less than $36,800. Adjustments in income include deductions for each child and reductions for households where the head of the household or the spouse is disabled.

People who live in mobile homes are eligible for the Self-Help Housing Program. Some people who have filed for bankruptcy in the past could be eligible after one year.

Participants do not need a down payment. The program arranges for loans of 33 years through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Interest is subsidized for low- and very low-income borrowers.

Monthly payments are based on income and must fall between $350 and $600 per month, including mortgage, insurance and taxes.

Program participants can obtain a loan for up to $100,000. Sweat equity from their construction labor could add another $30,000 to $40,000, allowing some qualified participants to afford a $140,000 home.

Once an application is approved, participants pay the first year’s insurance on the house, including a builder’s risk policy, so they are covered if anyone gets injured on their property during the job. The group meets to discuss the steps that will take them down the path to becoming a homeowner.

Linda Dickerson, program manager, looks for property in the areas of interest and desired price range for each participant. Cost of the lot is included in the mortgage.

Home builders have five house plans from which to choose. All are one-story homes ranging from 988 square feet to 1,250 square feet. Plans range from two bedrooms to four. Owners may choose to include a basement that later can be finished. Homes come with garbage disposal, garage, and central heating and cooling. Each home has vinyl siding, 30-year roof shingles, an insulated garage door with a keyless entry, and single-hung windows.

Participants may choose their own counter tops, cabinets, light fixtures, ceiling fans, and siding and roof colors.

Dickerson currently is accepting applications for the group that will begin construction in January. Deadline for applications is Dec. 30. For an application or more information, call Dickerson at (573) 431-5191 ext. 3001 or 3002.

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