Sweat Equity Approaches


Sweat equity (Do-It-Yourself) is when people without major financial resources use their own labor to reduce the cost of home construction. The practice can be a viable element to overall housing availability, especially when coupled with a program that has folks working cooperatively. 

USDA's "mutual self-help" program, run by the Rural Housing Service and USDA Rural Development, works with qualifying participants to build or rehabilitate their own homes in one year. Sponsoring organizations provide supervision and training.  Families contribute about 65 percent of the labor needed.  There is a 7 family minimum, $20K loans each. No one moves in until they are are completed.

Community Action Team in Saint Helens, Oregon has experience and a good track record with this program.  Contact Jim Tierney, their Director, or Casey Mitchell, who works with the families to get them built.   The pictures on this page are from a project in Columbia County.  They are working to get one going in Seaside.


Habitat for Humanity is a faith-based volunteer housing group with an excellent model and achievements.  They depend on donations or low cost land to be able to do a project.  A number of jurisdictions give them or similar organizations preference on surplus land sales.

The Tillamook County Chapter has a great track record both for houses built and the care with which they continue to mentor their homeowners long after the homes are finished.   

They can be reached at PO Box 937, Tillamook, OR 97141-0937.  Phone: (503) 842-7472 Fax: (503) 842-9244 E-mail: tchabforhumanity@oregoncoast.com. 




Tool Rental & Building Skills Advice

Provides support for sweat equity, do-it-yourselfers.  The North Portland Tool Library is a community resource that loans a wide variety of tools to community members free of charge.  It would be cool to get something like this going at Cartm Recycling.



NeahCasa would love to demonstrate on at least one of its development projects new strategies for including do-it-yourself as an element of obtaining home ownership.  Current thinking is to provide a cost-efficient shell/starter-house, while allowing for homeowner addition of amenities and add-on space over time.  The modular home scheme being developed (see Flex Home page) would allow later owner insulation, sheetrocking and finish of upper level, addition of cabinetry, dishwashers, etc., while providing “move-in” finish on the main level.