By Paula MacDonald

An early morning wave of rain showers could not dampen the spirits of over 100 supporters of Florida Home Partnership, as the sun emerged just in time to welcome representatives of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in celebration of the Mutual Self-Help Housing Program’s 50 Years/50,000 Homes milestone.

For half a century, the USDA has been helping low-income, rural families build a better future through home ownership by providing affordable mortgages and savings from “sweat equity.” As one of only 100 programs in the country, Florida Home Partnership (FHP) is a non-profit homebuilder that has built over 700 homes in Hillsborough and Pasco counties since 1995.

To commemorate this year’s 50,000 homes milestone, local community leaders and visiting dignitaries broke ground on a home site that will be the future home of single mother Christine Tighe.

“This has given me an opportunity to provide a home for myself and my son, something I didn’t think was possible until I found this program,” explained Christine.

While USDA is the primary source of funding for the Mutual Self-Help Housing Program, Hillsborough and Pasco Counties Down Payment Assistance Programs, state funds and partnerships offer additional support through grants, donations and volunteer time. In recognition of a $219,000 Urban Lift Grant that Wells Fargo Bank provided FHP in 2014, Regional President David Guzman offered words of encouragement to the homeowners.

“We have the easy job, which is to write the check,” Guzman said. “You all have the hard job, which is building these homes. Being here today helps us to put a face to this grant.”

Families in the Self-Help Housing Program must commit a minimum of 600 hours of sweat equity in exchange as a down payment for their new homes.

In addition to working on their homes, participants also support their new neighbors in constructing their homes. With a goal of at least 30 homes to be completed by the end of the year for Ruskin’s Bayou Pass Village phase 4 subdivision, future homeowners have a great deal of hard work ahead of them.

To request more information, call 672-7860 or e-mail Visit

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