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Zuni Pueblo and USDA Begin 'Self Help Housing' Program for 12 Families

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On May 7, 12 Zuni Pueblo families and United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development State Director Terry Brunner broke ground on the construction of the Pueblo’s first “Self Help Housing” program homes.

This is the first program of its kind for American Indians in New Mexico.

The homes are to be built by the Zuni Pueblo members with the support from the USDA a press release from the USDA stated. According to Ernie Watson, Public Affairs Specialist on Rural Development for the USDA, “[t]he homeowners will build about 60 to 65 percent of the home. They do not install or construct those items that require a license.”

Through the Self Help Program, four to 10 families work together as a group in each other’s homes until every home in the group is completed. Through their labor, the participants save an average of $10,000 to $20,000 per home.

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The families will assist in pouring concrete, frame, dry wall, roofing, painting, landscaping, and other areas of construction.

This process is often referred to as “sweat equity,” which is known as “the ownership interest, or increase in value, that is created as a direct result of hard work by the owner(s),” according to It’s a preferred mode for individuals that may be cash-strapped and unable to contribute financial capital, but are able to add value through improvements made by homeowners themselves.

“The bottom line is the homeowner qualifies for a home mortgage which allows them to build a much bigger home because when completed the home will actually appraise for a lot more than the original mortgage,” Watson said.

During the groundbreaking celebration Brunner said, “In January we were here in Zuni celebrating the obligation of funds for this project, and today I am happy to see that the construction for these homes has begun.” Brunner added, “This ground breaking ceremony signifies that the Obama administration has kept its promise that everyone as an opportunity to own their own home and at the same time the construction phase helps create good quality jobs.” 

The Zuni Housing Authority and Little Dixie Community Action Agency will be providing assistance with the program as well. The Zuni Housing Authority received a $279,000 grant to go towards administering and supervising the construction of the new homes. Little Dixie, based in Oklahoma, will work with the Housing Authority and provide homeownership training and assist families with home loan applications to USDA Rural Development according to the release.