MONTICELLO, KY – Local, state, and federal officials gathered today in Wayne County with community leaders and families to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Mutual Self-Help program, which will built its 50,000th home this year nationwide.

Kentucky Highlands Community Development Corporation’s Self-Help Housing Program has assisted 26 low-income families in Wayne and Clinton counties buy affordable housing (23 in Wayne and 3 in Clinton).

“This program provides an important pathway to the dream of homeownership,” said Jerry Rickett, president and CEO of Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation. “Families and the entire community benefit from the safety and stability brought by these homes. Through many partnerships and tremendous support, Kentucky Highlands has helped 26 local families achieve this dream.”

On hand were USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Lisa Mensah, U.S. Representative Hal Rogers, Lieutenant Governor Crit Luallen, Wayne County Judge-Executive Michael Anderson, Monticello Mayor Jeffrey E. Edwards and several low-income families who are now homeowners.

“A home is the epicenter of the American dream, and this long-standing federal program has been helping families build safe homes that they otherwise could not afford,” Rogers said. “I applaud Kentucky Highlands and the USDA for helping families in our region build the foundation for a better future in a home they can take great pride in.”

Brigett Meadors, a Self-Help home-buyer who just started the construction process, praised the program.

“I never thought I would have the opportunity to become a homeowner, but I couldn’t thank the good Lord above enough for giving me the opportunity to do this,” Meadors said. “It’s not just any home, it’s going to be our home, and I’m even more excited to be able to learn and show my child one day that this is something I helped build. I feel blessed.”

USDA has contributed more than $1 million in administrative grant funds to Kentucky Highlands’ self-help program since 2008 and $1.8 million in permanent mortgage financing to the families.

“Buying a home helps rural families gain a foothold into the middle class by stepping on that first rung of what President Obama calls a ladder of opportunity,” Mensah said. “To help them succeed, USDA and its partners provide the financial tool: an affordable mortgage.”

With the self-help program, qualifying families save money by building their own homes under the direction of Kentucky Highlands, and they qualify for low-interest, long-term, no down payment loans from USDA as well as forgivable loans from a variety of sources, including HOME (HUD funds) and the state Affordable Housing Trust Fund resources administered by Kentucky Housing Corporation and the Federation of Appalachian Housing Enterprises, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati’s Affordable Housing administered by Cumberland Valley National Bank, Appalachian Regional Commission funds administered by the Kentucky Department for Local Government, and Self-Help Home Ownership Opportunity funds administered by the Housing Assistance Council.

“The Governor and I know that affordable housing is one of the key components in improving the quality of life for our people, alongside education, access to healthcare and jobs,” Luallen said. “That’s why I’m proud to be a part of the celebration today, and announce a special funding program offering down payment assistance and low fixed financing for low- to moderate-income home buyers in the 54-county SOAR region, which will make owning a home more affordable.”

Here’s how the program works:

  • Families apply to participate and have their family and credit status checked to see if they qualify. Qualifying families must have incomes that do not exceed 80 percent of area median income and be willing to provide 30 hours per week of construction labor;
  • Kentucky Highlands provides experienced carpenters to lead, coach and supervise construction, and families work in build groups of six to eight people to cooperatively build their homes;
  • The savings on labor, administrative cost and the builder’s profit total of about 25- 30 percent of the home’s cost or about $25,000 – $35,000, depending on total costs;
  • The interest rate may be as low as 1 percent, and there is no down payment; and
  • Some families qualify for forgivable loans from a variety of sources including funds from Kentucky Housing Corporation, Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati, Kentucky Department for Local Government and Housing Assistance Council.