In June Milford Housing Development Corporation (MHDC) celebrated National Homeownership Month with a work day event featuring speakers, followed by group volunteer construction on two MHDC Self-Help homes at Jefferson Crossroads in Lincoln, DE. Speakers included USDA Rural Development State Director Dr. Bill McGowan, USDA Rural Development Chief of Staff Katharine Ferguson from Washington D.C, Delaware State Housing Authority (DSHA) Director of Housing Development Susan Eliason, and MHDC President/CEO David Moore. Also in attendance was Kate Rohrer representing Senator Chris Coons, Karen McGrath representing Senator Tom Carper and State Representative Harvey Kenton.
“Self-Help Housing is a wonderful program for all and we feel fortunate to work alongside Milford Housing Development Corporation to provide this type of affordable, attractive homeownership opportunity for the citizens of Delaware,” said Dr. Bill McGowan, USDA Rural Development State Director. “Homeownership has long been the cornerstone of the American dream, and affordable financing…creates ladders of opportunity to help families grow and thrive.”
MHDC offers the Self-Help Program as an alternative path to homeownership for families who might otherwise not be eligible through a more traditional avenue. Serving very-low to moderate-income individuals in Kent and Sussex Counties, the average income of participating households is $27,272, roughly 40% of Area Median Income, and 32 participating households have an average annual income below $20,000.
Working in small groups of families, participants help build each other’s homes together over a year-long construction process for 30 hours each week. Cyndey Briddell, age 28 of Georgetown, is currently building her home with four other families that have supported each other through several builds with sweet equity and mutual support.
“This program has taught me that I am more responsible than I thought,” commented Briddell. “The other homeowners really work together and just because your house is built does not mean you are done. You still have to help the others so they can move into their house as well.”
A school bus driver for the past nine years, Briddell is a single mother raising three children. With no credit history and very little income, she found it increasingly difficult to imagine owning her own home. Working with MHDC for two years now, the first step she took was to build her credit score and work with a financial counselor to assist her in understanding how to create a family budget and how to save for the future. In addition to working during the day and caring for her three children, Briddell now spends her weekends and any time off at the build site cutting wood, hammering nails and securing a foundation for her family.
“I am excited to have a place we can call our own home, this will be ours to make our own memories in forever,” said Briddell. “My children are so excited and are already choosing colors for their rooms.”
Birddell is grateful for the opportunity to become a homeowner through the MHDC program and states that the company has been with her every step of the way through financial literacy courses to actually building the homes. Including her own home, she has assisted in building five MHDC houses and believes that the experience has taught not only her but her children a very important lesson in perseverance.
“I am teaching them that you don’t just give up, you keep going,” stated Briddell. “Just because you may not be as well off as everyone else you still work as hard as you can.”
The program was established by USDA Rural Development over 40 years ago for very-low to low-income families, utilizing a sweat equity model. MHDC is the only agency in Delaware offering the program and has assisted over 165 families realize their dream of homeownership. Currently, MHDC’s Self-Help families average $35,000 in sweat equity per home.