Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program

Organized through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP) awards grants to national and regional nonprofit organizations or consortia that have experience in using homebuyer and volunteer labor to build housing for low-income families. Established in 1996 to help mitigate the high costs of land acquisitions and infrastructure planning, SHOP received $26.5 million in FY 2009 and $27 million in FY 2010.

To be eligible for grants, organizations must have developed at least 30 units of "self-help" or "sweat equity" housing within the last 24 months. HUD places a strong focus on the organization's experience, ability to leverage additional funding, and the strength of the program design. Grantees can only use awarded funds for acquisition, infrastructure improvements, and administrative costs. In addition, organizations cannot spend more than $15,000 of grant money per house on land acquisition or infrastructure planning, while administrative costs may not exceed 20 percent of the total grant. Families that benefit from SHOP funds must earn less than 80 percent of area median income and invest a minimum of 100 hours of labor in building their homes or the homes of others.

HUD awards grants competitively based upon an organization's experience in managing a sweat-equity program and capacity to generate other sources of funding, as well as community needs and the soundness of the program design. The HUD-funded organizations may develop self-help housing themselves or act as intermediaries; that is, make SHOP loans to local groups that manage "sweat equity" self-help housing construction programs.

One of the main recipients of the SHOP program is Habitat for Humanity (Habitat), which is a private nonprofit Christian ministry that enlists volunteers and partnering organizations to build homes for families in need of shelter. The homes are sold to eligible families at no profit and financed with affordable loans. However, in addition to paying for the homes, the families also help build their own home, contributing hundreds of hours of their own labor. Since it began its work in 1976, Habitat has built over 350,000 homes in over 90 countries. There are currently over 1,700 affiliates in the United States. The Habitat program encourages new groups to join its network. After conducting research demonstrating community need, a group that wishes to become an affiliate can apply to Habitat and gain more information here or by calling 1 800-HABITAT. Upon becoming an affiliate, the group is asked to tithe a portion of its proceeds to Habitat in order to support Habitat's projects in poor countries.

The Housing Assistance Council (HAC), the other leading SHOP recipient, has been helping local organizations build affordable homes in rural America since 1971. HAC's mission is to improve housing conditions for the rural poor, with an emphasis on the poorest of the poor. HAC assists in the development of both single- and multifamily homes and, like Habitat, uses self-help, "sweat equity" construction methods. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., with offices in Georgia, New Mexico, California, and Missouri, HAC offers services to public, nonprofit, and private organizations throughout the United States. HAC also maintains a special focus on high-need groups and regions: Indian Country, the Mississippi Delta, farmworkers, the Southwest border colonias, and Appalachia. Since 1971, HAC has committed over $235 million in loans for project start-up costs to community-based housing sponsors. These loans have helped to create more than 63,500 housing units and water/sewer connections in 49 states, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.


  • The homepage for Habitat for Humanity, which contains links to contacts and other information is here:
    Frequently asked questions about the Habitat program are available here:
  • The homepage for the Housing Assistance Council, with links to pages with information about its self-help housing and technical assistance programs, is available here:
  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) webpage for the SHOP program is located here:
  • The National Low Income Housing Coalition has a useful summary of the SHOP program available here:
    (link no longer active)