BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO) — A housing program in Brookings is helping low-income families get a loan and build their own homes.

Inter-Lakes Community Action Partnership’s mutual self-help housing program has been helping families in the Brookings area since 1996. It is part of a national housing program that has been around since the 1960s.

“The biggest benefit of the program is there is no money down and no out-of-pocket closing costs. A family would get ahold of us to apply. We help them with the prequal application. We help them with the full application. We also package the loans for USDA-Rural Development,” ICAP housing programs director Dana Whitehouse said.

The program has helped build over 150 homes in the Brookings area. 10 have been under construction since last September.

“For their sweat equity, they’re required to do 30 hours of work per week per family, and that usually takes about six to seven months of them being on-site for that 30 hours of work per week,” Whitehouse said.

Haley Gehring and Lexy Brewster are building homes with the program.

“It’s really nice to actually get to build our houses with our neighbors and get to know them, so we’ve all like became family basically,” Brewster said

“It’s been a fun process. It’s kind of nice to be able to learn how to do a lot of this stuff on our own. Any upgrades and stuff, we’re going to know how to do that,” Gehring said.

Sherry Meersman says her daughter surprised her by signing her up for the program. She says she is not physically able to do a lot of the build, so her daughter has been doing a lot of it for her.

“I am so thankful. I never thought when I sold my home in Shakopee, Minnesota, I never thought I would own a home ever again. I thought, oh my gosh, I’m going to be renting for the rest of my life. This is going to be my home and I’m so excited, and I just can’t wait, but I wouldn’t have been able to do without my daughter,” Meersman said.

It’s about more than just the physical home.

“Some of them get together and do things outside the build also, and they do develop those long-lasting relationships,” Whitehouse said.

If you are interested in the program and would like to find out more, you can visit their website.