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COMPARING HUMAN AND SOCIAL RESOURCES
ACCUMULATED THROUGH PARTICIPATION WITH HABITAT FOR HUMANITY
IN SCATTERED SITES AND HABITAT NEIGHBORHOODS
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
This document is dedicated to my family.
No one lives on an island, nor did this study. Several institutes, organizations, and
individuals provided financial, physical, and academic supports that contributed to the
success of this Habitat study. First, the University of Florida College of Design,
Construction and Planning fully supported this study by providing tuition waivers and
stipends through graduate assistance. The Shimberg Center for Affordable Housing
financially supported the researcher with traveling expenses among three cities. In
addition, the Dean's Office, the Ph. D. Program, and Shimberg Center together sponsored
compensations for participation during the most difficult time of the research.
Second, I would like to thank the directors of the three Habitat for Humanity
affiliations, Dave Feather, Joe Honeycutt, and Brad Nimmo, who showed immense
support since the beginning of the study and provided information to help the study
continue. Carrier Reppert, Gregory Stacey, and Mary Kay O'Rourke from Habitat offices
continued to provide detailed information as the study progressed.
Finally I would like to acknowledge the support, advice, encouragement, and
friendship offered during the six years by my advisors, family, and friends. My deepest
thank goes to my committee chair, Dr. Mary Jo Hasell, who is an inspiring and
extraordinary mentor as well as a great friend. Her profound knowledge, practical advice,
understanding patience, and critical critiques helped me go through the process with
much more confidence. As the director of Shimberg Center, Associate Dean, and a
committee member, Dr. Robert Stroh gave me tremendous help with excellent advice on
research methods and statistics. In addition, I am grateful to the other committee
members Dr. John Scanzoni and Dr. Tracy Johns, who contributed to the overall process.
I also want to thank Dr. John P. Marsden, who helped me explore the topic, and worked
with me through the proposal stage.
This study would not had been finished without the help of my dear finance, Jing
Lan, who accompanied me through the neighborhoods and gave me great mental support
when I was upset about some unpredictable issues during data collection. My parents
were always there, encouraging me to finish the research.
And above all, all my sincere thanks go to the participants in the study. Without
their enthusiasm to help others, there would be no study at all. Some participants gave me
tremendous mental support during the study and encouraged me to continue through all
difficulties. Their valuable insights toward their neighborhoods and their houses are
priceless, which confirms this research is a mutual learning experience.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOW LEDGM ENTS ........................................ iv
LIST OF TABLES ....................... ........ .......................... ix
LIST OF FIGURES ................................................. ...............x
ABSTRACT................................. .............. xii
1 THE PROBLEM..... ......... ........ .. .. .. .. ..........................
Introduction ................... .. ........ ..................1......
Statement of the Problem.................. .................. ........2
Sweat Equity as Participation................................... ...................5
Sw eat Equity as a Learning Process.............. .................................. ...............6
Sweat Equity as a Sharing Process...........................................................7
Habitat Neighborhoods versus Scattered Sites.......... ........................................9
Sweat Equity as Design Participation...................................................11
Significance of the Study........................................................ .... ........13
Assumptions and Delimitations Underlying the Study ......................................... 15
General Research Hypotheses ................. ...............................16
Definitions and Operational Term s ................................ ............... 19
Sum m ary ..................................................................................... 20
2 IN TR O D U C TIO N ..................................... ................................................................ 22
Theoretical B ackground................................................. 22
Learning by Doing..................... ...................22
G eneralized Social Exchange ..................................................................... 24
C onceptual F ram ew ork .................................................................................. 27
General Background Inform ation...................................................................... 29
Sw eat Equity as Participation................................................................... 30
Sweat Equity as Learning and Sharing....... ..........................................42
Physical Settings..................... ..................... 49
Design participation................................... .......... 54
V variable M measures ............................. .................56
Sweat Equity ............... ................... .............. .57
Hum an Resources .................. .......................... .. ....... ................. 58
Social R esources......... ............................................................ .. .... ...... 60
Design participation...................... ........ ............................... 62
S u m m a ry ............................................................................................................... 6 3
3 RESEARCH M ETHODOLOGY ........................................ .......................... 65
Case Study Paradigm ............. .. ............. .......... ...... ...... .. ............... 65
Research Setting .................... .....................................66
Sam pling and D ata Collection ...................... .... ......... .................... ............... 71
Operational D efinitions and M measures ............................................ ............... 73
A analytical Techniques .............................................. .. .. .... .. .. ....... .... 84
V alidity and R liability .......... ..... ......................................................... ... .... ....... 85
L im itation s of T his Stu dy ........................................ ............................................87
S u m m a ry ...................... .. ............. .. .....................................................8 8
4 RESULTS OF THE STUDY ...................... ..................................... ............... 90
C characteristics of Sam ple ........................................ ............................................90
Demographic Characteristics.................... ....... ........................... 90
Sweat Equity ................. ......... ................ .................... 92
Human and Social Resource Development................ .... .... ...............95
R results of Statistical A nalyses....................................................... ............... 100
R results of C ontent A nalyses...................... .. .. ......... ................. ... ................... 113
Reasons to Participate in Sweat Equity ........................................... 114
M earnings of Sweat Equity......................... .................. 114
Advantages and Disadvantages about Sweat Equity.............. ..................115
Neighborhood and Involvement.............. ........... ...... .................119
H helping B ehaviors ....... ............................ .. .. ....... .... ... ............ 120
D esig n P articip ation ............................................... ..................................... 12 3
S u m m ary ...................... .. .. ......... .. .. .................................................12 5
5 DISCUSSION ......... ................................... .. .. .................. 126
Sweat Equity as Doing, Learning, and Sharing ............................................ 126
Habitat Neighborhoods versus Scattered Sites........... ...... .............. 141
D design Participation ................................. .... ........ ...... .................. .....146
S u m m a ry ...................... .. ............. .. .....................................................1 5 5
6 CONCLU SION S ................................ .. .. ......... .. .............156
Sum m ary of the Stu dy ...................................................................... ..................156
C o n c lu sio n s..................................................... .........................................................1 5 9
Sweat Equity as Participation, Learning, and Sharing .....................................159
Habitat Neighborhoods versus Scattered Sites ..........................................161
D esign P articip ation ............................................... ..................................... 162
Im p lic atio n s ..............................................................................................................1 6 4
Suggestions for D designers ...................................................................... 164
Suggestions for H habitat .................................. ............... ............... 166
Suggestions for Further Research................................................................ 169
A SURVEY IN STRUM EN TS ............................................. ............................ 171
B INTERVIEW QUESTIONS ......................................................... ............... 180
L IST O F R E FE R E N C E S ........................................................................ ................... 185
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ............................................................. ...............198
LIST OF TABLES
3-1 Distribution of Sweat Equity Hours in Three Habitat Affiliates............................67
4-1 Demographic Characteristics of the Respondents..............................................91
4-2 Factor Analysis: Rotated Component M atrix....................................................... 101
4-3 Multivariate Analyses of Covariances Examining Dependent Variables after
Controlling for Education ......................................................... .............. 105
4-4 Significant Results from the Between-subjects Effects Examining Dependent
V a riab le s ..................................................... ................ 1 0 5
4-5 Multivariate Model for Dependent Variable SKILLS................ ............... 107
4-6 Multivariate Model for Dependent Variable ATT-H............................................107
4-7 Multivariate Model for Dependent Variable DESIGN ....................................... 108
4-8 M ultivariate M odel for Dependent Variable SELF...............................................108
4-9 Multivariate Model for Dependent Variable MAINT ................. ... ..................108
4-10 Multivariate Model for Dependent Variable SEG-E.............................................109
4-11 Multivariate Model for Dependent Variable SEG-R .............................................110
4-12 Univariate M odel for Dependent Variable SUP ...................................................110
4-13 Nonparametric Correlations Among Variables: Kendall's tau-b.................1......111
4-14 Results of Two Multiple Regression Analyses Examining Human and Social
R source D evelopm ents .............................................................. ..................... 112
LIST OF FIGURES
2-1 Simplified model from Gifford's framework of conceptualizing person-
environment relations in learning settings (2002).................................................28
2-2 Simplified Gifford's model for urban environmental psychology (2002) ............28
2-3 Conceptualized framework for sweat equity in a Habitat context ........................29
3-1 Conceptual framework for the doing, learning, and sharing process of sweat
equity within the context of Habitat for Humanity International.............................74
4-1 Hierarchical cluster analysis: Dendrogram using Ward Method .........................100
4-2 Modified conceptual framework for statistical analyses........................... 103
5-1 Sim plified m ultivariate results ........................................................ 127
5-2 An inviting entrance was created by using landscaping and outdoor furniture .....128
5-3 This was a living room with various decorations and displays. The homeowner
tried to match the colors as well ................................ ...................... ....129
5-4 The outside wooden handrails at the back entrance needed to be repaired........129
5-5 Simplified statistical results for human and social resources..............................133
5-6 The TV display in a living room illustrated the cultural preference of the
homeowner ................... ................... .................................... 135
5-7 The color blue was used in this bedroom.......................................................136
5-8 The playful primary colors were used on the walls, curtains, and the ceiling fan
in a kid's room.................................... ......... 136
5-9 The decoration in a bathroom also was carefully considered ..............................137
5-10 This front yard needed better landscaping ........................................137
5-11 The new bathroom was built by the homeowner herself after she moved in.........151
-11 The new bathroom was built by the homeowner herself after she moved in.........151
5-12 This was a multi-functional backyard. The backyard functioned as the garden,
gym, picnic area, kid's playground, gathering place, and utility storage space.....152
5-13 This picture showed three Habitat houses. The exterior of these houses looked
sim ila r ....................................................................... 1 5 3
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
COMPARING HUMAN AND SOCIAL RESOURCES
ACCUMULATED THROUGH PARTICIPATION WITH HABITAT FOR HUMANITY
IN SCATTERED SITES AND HABITAT NEIGHBORHOODS
Chair: Mary Joyce Hasell
Major Department: Design, Construction and Planning
Habitat for Humanity uses sweat equity to help low- and very low-income families
build affordable houses in both scattered sites and Habitat neighborhoods. Families
participate in the construction of their own houses and others as well. However, sweat
equity has not been clearly defined within a Habitat context. Nor has the impact of sweat
equity been systematically measured in terms of human and social resource development.
It is unclear whether or not these resources are maintained differently in Habitat
neighborhoods and scattered sites. Families make design choices about colors, finishes,
and landscape for their houses. However, not all affiliates count this participation as
sweat equity hours.
Dewey's learning-by-doing theory explains why participating in sweat equity
builds human and social resources: the individual skills in relation to house construction
and maintenance, and the community skills in relation to neighborhood maintenance,
respectively. Levi-Strauss's generalized social exchange theory shows why helping and
being helped during sweat equity activities provide the premises of the continuum of
reciprocity even after families move into their homes.
Since participation is context-specific, a case study explored the sweat equity
process as participation, learning-by-doing, and sharing with African-American female
heads of Habitat households. It was hypothesized that 1) sweat equity contributed to
human and social resource development; 2) Habitat neighborhoods contributed to the
maintenance of resources; and 3) design participation was associated with house
A pilot study with eight families tested the research instruments and procedures in a
local Habitat affiliate. The principal study was conducted in three Southeast United States
Habitat affiliates. Convenience sampling and volunteerism identified 49 respondents.
Significant quantitative and qualitative findings indicated that sweat equity and
design participation have positive effects on human and social resource development in
these settings. Also, Habitat neighborhoods helped eliminate the perception of economic
segregation, compared to Habitat houses in scattered sites. These findings suggest that the
learning-by-doing and sharing-sweat equity-are practical and efficient processes to
create human and social resources with low-income families. These findings enrich the
studies of learning-by-doing and generalized social exchange theories and address the
gap between theory and design practice.
Habitat for Humanity International is a private non-profit housing organization that
helps low- and very-low income people to achieve the "American Dream" of a single-
family house and livable environment. Habitat for Humanity (Habitat) helps individuals
to achieve this goal through a distinctive "sweat equity" process that requires people to
build their houses together. More specifically, partner families1 commit hundreds of
hours, consisting of various activities, to the construction of other families' houses and in
turn, receive help with their own houses (Vincent, 2002). During the sweat equity
process, partner families may acquire human resources including house building and
maintenance skills, budgeting skills for financial responsibility, and a sense of self-
esteem. They also may build social resources related to mutual support, neighboring
activities, sense of obligation, and trust among Habitat partner families.
However the persistence of human and social resources accumulated through sweat
equity may vary in different types of Habitat settings. Some houses are located in
scattered lots "where there are no other Habitat homes on the homeowner's street." Other
houses are located in clusters "where the homeowner's block includes other Habitat
households but is not exclusively developed with Habitat homes" or subdivisions "where
the homeowner is surrounded on the street only by homes built by Habitat" (Mitchell &
1 The relationship between Habitat International affiliates and the families are partners, so the families are
called "partner families" or "Habitat families" instead of homeowners in this study.
Warren, 1998, IV-27). The degree of segregation imposed by the Habitat context may
make it easier for families to maintain the human and social resources they have acquired
through sweat equity. Research has shown that Habitat families who live in clusters or
subdivisions are more satisfied than families who live in scattered homes. Yet, a major
objective of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Strategic
Plan is to reduce geographic segregation (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development [HUD], 2000) for low-income and poor families.
This study serves four research purposes: 1) it defines "sweat equity" as a process
that involves participation, experiential learning, and sharing in a Habitat context; 2) it
explores the relationship between sweat equity and human and social resource
developments; 3) it compares how human and social resources that are acquired through
sweat equity may vary in relation to the Habitat context (i.e., subdivisions versus
scattered Habitat houses); and 4) it explores the role of user participation in the house
design process during sweat equity. Since a cluster consists of 2% to 99% of Habitat
homeowners in one block, and this is a big range of variation, the term Habitat
neighborhood will be used in this study to describe areas that are considered a larger
cluster or a subdivision. The following section provides background information related
to the objectives of the study and identified research hypotheses.
Statement of the Problem
Sweat equity is a self-help building process when an owner takes control in the
planning, building, and managing of his or her own home. The activities of self-help
building range from supervising the worksite to months of hard labor (Grindley, 1972).
The first significant public self-help housing effort was conducted by the County Relief
Board of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, in the 1930s. The participants of the
program were unemployed coal miners who built self-sufficient communities together.
By 1940, participants completed approximately 250 homes (Spohn, 1972). In the 1960s,
the Housing and Home Finance Agency, the predecessor of HUD, solicited proposals for
new ways to improve low-income housing, particularly "the study of self-help in the
construction, rehabilitation, and maintenance of housing for low income persons and
families and the methods of selecting, involving, and directing such persons and families
in self-help activities" (Spohn, 1972, pp. 23-24). In the 1970s, HUD provided less
support for self-help projects and only the Mutual Self-Help Housing program retained
the sweat equity requirement. Currently, Rural Housing and Community Development
Services in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provide technical
support for the Mutual Self-Help Housing Program. Qualified families in a group of 5 to
12 complete 65% of the work on their own homes. Group members work on each other's
homes and move in when all the homes are completed. The average price of a Mutual
Self-Help house is about $80,000 with a low-interest Single-Family Housing Direct
Federal efforts for self-help housing diminished after Eugene R. Gulledge was
appointed as the Assistant Secretary for Production, HUD, in the 1960s. It is believed that
the HUD structure of mass production also contributed to the low profile of HUD in self-
help programs because the self-help housing production was only a fraction of the
housing market (Spohn, 1972). However, non-profit organizations including Habitat
realized that even if the housing production of self-help programs might not be
significant to the housing market, each house built with sweat equity changed the lives of
the homeowners significantly, especially low-income families. Established in 1976 by
Millard and Linda Fuller, Habitat for Humanity International currently has over 1,500
affiliates in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin
Islands and about 400 overseas groups in 83 countries. According to Habitat for
Humanity International 2002 Fiscal Report (Habitat for Humanity [Habitat], 2002),
Habitat has produced a total of 44,617 low-income homes in the United States and
133,641 homes worldwide. The average cost is $46,000 per house nationwide and $800
worldwide. Habitat affiliates are responsible for raising funds, obtaining planning and
building permissions, selecting partner families, and coordinating volunteers and
construction. Habitat is unique due to its use of sweat equity, interest-free loan,
volunteerism, and donations from local resources. The Habitat homeowners have some
control over the designing (e.g., choosing the site, colors, and finishes of their homes)
and building processes of their houses and full control and responsibility for home
maintenance and management. Former president Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) and Jack
Kemp, former secretary of Housing and Urban Development (1989-1993), actively
supported Habitat International and brought it both nationwide and international
recognition. Former president Bill Clinton (1993-2001) praised it as the most successful
community service project in the United States (Finn, 1994).
Since the establishment of Habitat, researchers and practitioners have developed
increasing interests in many aspects of Habitat, such as building techniques (Florida
Power & Light Company, 2000; Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing,
2002; U.S. Department of Energy, 1999), impact of physical environment on mental
conditions (Sanwu, Haberl, & Kim, 1999; Wells, N.M., 2000), financial assistance,
religion and volunteerism (Baggett, 1998; Thurman, 1991), building social capital related
to Habitat organizations (Hays, 2002), and the impact of Habitat houses on property
value (Habitat, 2003). Importantly, HUD funded the Applied Real Estate Analysis
(AREA), Inc. to examine the general financial and social benefits of homeownership
from the Habitat families' points of view (Mitchell & Warren, 1998). Finn (1994)
detailed the Habitat experiences (including sweat equity) as a dynamic process of
empowerment in one Habitat community. Using open-ended questions, she asked partner
families to recall all their experiences with Habitat after living in the Habitat houses for
one year. However, no studies have been found that explore sweat equity as a
participatory process. How are human and social resources actually accumulated through
the sweat equity process? In addition, previous studies have not compared Habitat
families in scattered sites with those in neighborhoods to assess whether or not the human
and social resources developed through the sweat equity process persist over time. No
studies have examined the role of Habitat families' participation in the house design and
planning process of their own houses.
This research examines sweat equity as a process of participation, learning by
doing, and sharing. Sweat equity is a holistic and dynamic process that changes the lives
of partner families. This study will examine the acquisition of human and social resources
in scattered sites and Habitat neighborhoods. The role of user participation in the design
process will also be explored.
Sweat Equity as Participation
The World Bank (2002) defines participation as "a process through which
stakeholders influence and share control over development initiatives and the decisions
and resources which affect them." The definition of participation by the World Bank is
close to the definition of sweat equity within the context of Habitat. First, sweat equity is
a process which usually takes months for the major stakeholders to accomplish. Second,
during the sweat equity activities, partner families make some decisions about their
houses. Finally, partner families take actions collectively to realize the dream of owning a
home. Sweat equity in this study is the participation of partner families with Habitat.
Even though the World Bank's definition explains the social influences of
participation, it does not provide empirical information about participation. For example,
what process gives the most control to stakeholders and over which decisions? As a self-
help participatory process, the definition of sweat equity in Habitat needs to address
specific activities in which families take control of and are involved in planning and
decision-making. What activities are included in sweat equity? What does sweat equity
mean to Habitat families when they help others? What does sweat equity mean to them
when they help themselves?
Sweat Equity as a Learning Process
According to Dewey (1913), the doing experiences often involve a learning
process. He claims that learning experiences "cover all the doings that involve growth of
power-especially of power to realize the meaning of what is done" (1913, p. 66).
Interacting with one's physical or social environment is necessary in order to acquire new
skills and knowledge (Roth, 1962). Once new skills are learned, they become a part of
human resources. Human resources include human abilities, knowledge, skills, health,
and appreciation that are accumulated either consciously by formal education and task
training, or unconsciously through experiences (Green & Haines, 2002; Ostrom, 2000;
Putnam, 2000). Human resources in this study refer to the knowledge and skills one
acquires or sharpens through training and experiential learning at the individual level.
Is there a relationship between sweat equity (training, construction, and public
activities) and human resources? Specifically, do they learn maintenance and financing
skills? How do they perceive their skills? How often do they practice those skills on their
own? Do Habitat families learn the appropriate skills during sweat equity to accomplish
all the maintenance and repairs on their own houses? If the sweat equity experiences did
not teach Habitat families all the skills to maintain their homes, will they be able to learn
how to do it by themselves when there is a need? If the maintenance or repair is too
complicated to be done by the family members, will they get physical or financial
assistance from other Habitat neighbors rather than asking for help from Habitat? Is self-
responsibility of maintaining one's home accumulated or increased during sweat equity
in addition to necessary skills and social support?
Sweat Equity as a Sharing Process
As part of the Habitat agenda, partner families contribute hundreds of sweat equity
hours to work on other Habitat houses. In turn, they receive the same help from
volunteers and other partner families to build their own houses. During the giving and
receiving interactions, sweat equity may build the social connections or the ties among
In the 1920s, L. Judson Hanifan coined the term social capital to describe the
social relationships that "count for most in the daily lives of people: good will,
fellowship, sympathy, and social intercourse among the individuals and families who
make up a social unit" (cited in Putnam & Gross, 2002, p. 4). Social capital generally
refers to connections among individuals, including social relationships and bonds that
facilitate collective action in the community (Bourdieu, 1983; Coleman, 1988; Green &
Haines, 2002; Hanifan, 1916; Jacobs, 1961; Putnam, 2000; Putnam & Gross, 2002). In
the course of achieving and maintaining collective actions, people build social networks,
norms of reciprocity, and trustworthiness, which are necessary to the development of
social resources (Putnam, 2000; World Bank, 2002). In this study, social resources refer
to mutual support, neighboring activities, neighborhood attachment, sense of obligation,
and trust among the Habitat partner families at the neighborhood level.
Turner (1977) believes that the real value of building and maintaining a house lies
in the relationships developed among stakeholders. Turner's belief coincides with what
Habitat believes: skills and relationships are the important result or outcome developed
through building a physical shelter (Habitat, 2003).
One fundamental basis of social capital is the generalized reciprocity or generalized
social exchange. Helping behaviors are categorized into two main streams: one advocates
that helping behaviors are performed in order to achieve for one's own benefits
(egoistic); and the other claims that behaviors aimed for the general benefits of all are
possible (altruistic) (Allop, Fifield, & Seiter, 2002). Generalized reciprocity includes not
only intra-group but also inter-group favoritism. Intra-group favoritism is the mutual
commitment among participants within a group: I do it for you now, expecting you or
others in the same group will do something similar in turn sometime. The inter-group
favoritism includes mutual commitment between group members and members outside
the group: I do it for your now, expecting you or others inside or outside the group will
do something in turn sometime. The idea of generalized reciprocity supports the
generalized social exchange theory. The generalized social exchange occurs when an
individual feels obligated to give back-not directly rewarding his benefactors-but
other actors in a chain of social exchange (Ekeh, 1974). In Habitat, partner families first
help other partner families and then receive direct help from other partner families,
volunteers, and donors. The people a family helped to build their houses may not be the
same who come to help the family later. Therefore, the sharing process of sweat equity is
characterized by generalized social exchange. In this way, trust is built (Putnam & Gross,
2002). Frequent interactions tend to reinforce the norm of reciprocity. Therefore, social
resources originate from doing something for someone else. Cohen and Prusak (2001)
assert that a sense of equitable participation is embedded in the development of social
capital, and as a result, a higher level of social capital invites genuine participation.
In Habitat, partner families help each other with house construction. Is there a
relationship between sweat equity and social resources? Will this sharing process
contribute to building social bonds among partner families? To what extent do partner
families know their neighbors' names and have informal interactions? To what extent do
they trust their neighbors? After they move into their new houses, will they continue the
mutual support for each other when there is a need, such as lending a tool, giving a car
ride, babysitting for a neighbor, or giving a hand for house repairs? Why do families help
their neighbors and why do they receive help? Does sweat equity help partner families
realize their obligation to their neighborhoods, such as attending activities to maintain
and improve their neighborhoods in addition to their own houses? According to Mitchell
and Warren (1998), the Habitat families do take pride in having helped to build their
homes and feel a sense of belonging. Does the commitment of sweat equity help partner
families build a sense of community?
Habitat Neighborhoods versus Scattered Sites
Habitat homes may be built in scattered lots or neighborhoods. Since most partner
families have low- or very low- incomes, single-parent families with similar education
levels and ethnic backgrounds, greater segregation occurs in Habitat neighborhoods as
compared with houses in scattered lots.
Many scholars (Denton, 1999; Martinez, 2000) criticized the segregation that
occurred when low-income, and often minority, families were displaced in the urban
renewal programs of the 1950s. The 1968 Housing and Urban Development Act
addressed the fair accessibility and affordability of homeownership for minorities and
low-income families in mobility programs and assisted housing programs. The Gautreaux
Demonstration Project in the 1970s was the best-known mobility program, which
relocated some low-income families into a racially balanced middle-class neighborhood.
The participants in the demonstration showed higher satisfaction with their
neighborhoods than residents with similar financial status in racially unbalanced low-
income neighborhoods (Peroff, Davis, & Jones, 1979). Reducing segregation by race and
income therefore has become a standard objective in HUD's Strategic Plan (HUD, 2000).
However, the success of the relocation seemed only short-term because the integrated
neighborhoods tended to re-segregate (Carr, 1999; Farley, Steeh, Jackson, Krysan, &
Reeves, 1993; Stuart, 2002). Can housing problems be solved exclusively by better-
looking physical environments or mixed-income neighborhoods?
In 1997, Habitat International and 19 affiliates collaborated with Applied Real
Estate Analysis (AREA), Inc., a real estate and policy-planning corporation, to conduct a
HUD study on the experiences of Habitat homeowners. Habitat families felt safe and
secure when their neighbors were other Habitat families. Although no statistical
significance was found, families who live in clusters or subdivisions expressed greater
neighborhood satisfaction than those who live in scattered homes. Given that safety was a
major concern in recent Habitat projects, clusters or subdivisions were accepted
development patterns (Mitchell & Warren, 1998). In other words, Habitat programs are
building more segregated low- and very low-income neighborhoods when they have
enough available land. Habitat families perceived clusters or subdivisions as a means to
revitalize their neighborhoods, rather than as segregations (Mitchell & Warren, 1998).
The high satisfaction rate of Habitat families raises suspicions about the significance of
integrated race and income as appropriate for all groups in every context.
Do human and social resources accumulated through sweat equity differ in
scattered sites and neighborhood settings? Are there differences between Habitat families
in scattered lots and neighborhoods in how often they use the maintenance skills on their
own houses? Will partner families in Habitat neighborhoods tend to help each other more
often than families in scattered lots? In Habitat neighborhoods, will the homogeneous
neighborhoods lead to segregation? Do homeowners perceive racial and economic
Sweat Equity as Design Participation
Design participation refers to the extent that a family participates in the design and
planning activities of their houses and takes control over the design and planning features
of their homes. The design and planning activities include but are not limited to: choosing
the lot, selecting the exterior and interior colors, materials, and finishes, picking layout
designs and elevations, and changing design details to satisfy users' needs. Design
participation is assumed to promote control and the satisfaction of the end-users.
However, normative statements rather than empirical research dominate the literature to
advocate the necessity of user participation. The World Bank (1995) stated that
participation in the planning and implementation stages of development efforts enhances
these efforts' impact and increases sustainability. Finn (1994) claimed that choosing
colors and decorations by Habitat homeowners was empowering. Since she did not
measure sweat equity or design participation empirically, the findings could not help
Habitat to improve the design or design participation process. In 2000, Reis (2000)
examined the relationship between user participation and satisfaction with mass housing
design in Brazil. He claimed that low-income groups wished to participate in the design
process and the participation was associated with user satisfaction. However, Reis
excluded other physical and social factors (e.g., neighborhood quality, neighbors, trust,
and safety) that may explain user satisfaction or other influences user participation has
(e.g., pride, house maintenance, and neighborhood satisfaction).
Before the actual building of one's own house, Habitat allows partner families to
select from a minimum of the architectural features (e.g., lot, layout, colors, and finishes
of cabinets and walls). Not all Habitat affiliates count these activities as sweat equity
hours. This study explores the relationship between user participation in the house design
and planning and satisfaction with the results. What is the relationship between the
number of types of design activities in which a family participates during sweat equity
and design satisfaction, house satisfaction, and design participation satisfaction? Is design
participation related to the maintenance of human and social resources? How important is
design participation to Habitat families? How do partner families evaluate their
concurrent houses in terms of interior, exterior, and landscape design of their houses?
Should Habitat expand their theory of sweat equity and include the design participation in
addition to the training, construction and management processes? What other activities
should be included in sweat equity?
Significance of the Study
Habitat for Humanity provides decent, safe, and affordable low-income housing by
organizing local resources and users' participation in the construction of their own houses
as well as other families' houses. Empirically defining sweat equity in the Habitat context
may encourage other housing programs such as HUD to reconsider their current policies
and to emulate the participatory approach to solve low-income housing problems in the
United States. This study contributes to a better understanding of the roles of the sweat
equity process to the users. Although sweat equity is context specific, a general
understanding of sweat equity can help local offices to improve the sweat equity process
so that low-income families may benefit more from this unique experience.
Exploring the relationship between sweat equity and human and social resource
development from a learning and sharing perspective helps Habitat to solve long-term
maintenance problems. As a house ages, maintenance and repair contributes to the
housing problem in the long run. In studying the phenomenon of Habitat empowerment,
Finn (1994) found that house maintenance and responsibility were problematic. The
AREA (Mitchell & Warren, 1998) study also showed that Habitat would encounter
general maintenance problems in the near future. However, Habitat states that there is no
maintenance problem because the maintenance should be the partner families' own
responsibilities (Nimmo, B., personal communication, June 11, 2003). By examining the
relationship between sweat equity and resource development, this study seeks solutions to
the maintenance problems from a learning and sharing perspective of the sweat equity
phase. As a learning process, it is theoretically interesting and pragmatically imperative
to explore what families learn, how families share with their neighbors, and if and how
these experiences influence their behaviors. As a sharing process, this study explores the
generalized social exchange theory as the basis for building and transferring social
resources from sweat equity's mutual help into neighboring experiences after Habitat
families move in their houses.
This study also contributes to Habitat strategies of house planning. No study has
been found by this researcher to discuss the maintenance of resources within two settings:
scattered sites and Habitat neighborhoods. Habitat neighborhoods are more likely to
promote residential segregation. However, the generalized social exchange theory
indicates that neighborhoods may better maintain and use social resources. By comparing
the resource maintenance and the perception of segregation within different settings, the
knowledge about the roles of physical settings may be useful for other low-income
housing programs as well, such as HUD and USDA Rural Development housing
Finally, this study aims to provide evidence of a sense of control and housing
satisfaction when low-income users participate in their house designs within a Habitat
context. Currently, Habitat families can change a minor part of the design, such as colors,
finishes, and materials of certain elements. Exploring the relationship between design
participation and satisfaction enables a better understanding of the roles of design
participation and efficient ways to satisfy low-income users' needs. By exploring what
improvements Habitat families want for their homes, this study will reveal imperative
information for better and more satisfying house and neighborhood designs. The
implementation of low-income user participation will also be discussed within a Habitat
Assumptions and Delimitations Underlying the Study
Several basic assumptions are made for the research design of sweat equity as a
doing, learning, and sharing process. Theoretically, it is assumed that the strength of the
relationships between sweat equity and the skills that Habitat families learn over the
entire process of participation can be assessed. The reciprocal relationship between
people and their social and physical surroundings can also be studied through individual
perceptions and behaviors. Technically five assumptions are essential in this study. First,
the sweat equity policies of the participating Habitat affiliates are representative of
Habitat International. Second, participating partner families are representative among all
local Habitat families. Third, research participants' self-report survey and open-ended
questions are sufficient to measure the variables. Fourth, the partner families tell the
truth. Fifth, the information obtained is accurate, valid, and reliable.
The strength of this case study is the quality of the detailed information revealed by
individual participants. Paired with survey measures, the impacts of sweat equity can be
quantified and then compared within two physical settings-Habitat neighborhoods and
scattered sites. However, the sweat equity experiences are practically related to local
Habitat policies, such as the number of required hours. The limitation in this study is that
a large sample was outside the funding and time constraints of this researcher. Therefore,
this study addresses only major aspects of sweat equity and its influences within three
regional settings. However, with these findings in hand, opportunities for future research
The delimitation is determined by the nature of the Habitat context. This study is
supported by three Habitat affiliates in northern Florida. These affiliates differ in the
amount of sweat equity hours, details of activities, and housing styles. But all affiliates
want to improve their design and sweat equity process, and respect the input from the
families. The sample is delimited to those who are available and are willing to help
during the research period. Because the majority of the partner families are female
African American, only female householders are included. Race is not considered as a
factor in the selection of the convenience sample. Instruments are designed specifically to
measure sweat equity, human resource development, and social resource development
within a Habitat context.
General Research Hypotheses
This study explores low-income users' participation in the process of building both
their own and other families' Habitat houses. However, sweat equity needs to be
redefined before testing any hypotheses. Habitat simply refers to sweat equity as the labor
invested in building houses and time in self-improvement (Lassman-Eul, 2001). This
definition gives only a vague idea about how to measure or operationalize sweat equity.
Since house planning, construction, and maintenance are long-term processes, should
activities related to the planning and maintenance phases be considered sweat equity?
Should activities contributing to future neighborhood building be considered sweat equity
as well? Although Habitat uses the amount of time to record sweat equity, there are no
assigned amounts of time allocated among the various activities. In addition, Habitat's
definition does not specify what activities are qualified as self-improvement in a Habitat
context. Therefore, local sweat equity policies differ in the number of hours, the types of
activities, and the proportion of hours distributed among different activities. Lacking
more precise definitions, it is difficult to explain whether or not the Habitat sweat equity
hours are reasonable, and what types of activities benefit families most in terms of house
planning, building, and maintenance.
From a participation perspective, sweat equity is empirically defined as the number
hours Habitat families work during sweat equity and the number of types of activities
included in sweat equity. Based on the new concept of sweat equity, learning by doing
and generalized social exchange theories, three propositions are generated as following:
1. Sweat equity contributes to the human and social resource development.
2. A difference exists in the maintenance of human and social resources within two
different physical environments-scattered sites and Habitat neighborhoods.
3. A relationship exists between users' participation in house design and the
satisfaction with the results of their participation.
Hypothesis 1: Sweat equity contributes to resource building as learning and sharing
Because Habitat is a "hand up, not a hand out" (Fuller, 1993, p. 149) program,
partner families must be actively engaged in the building process of their houses.
Building a house requires certain construction skills. For most partner families, they need
to learn these skills in order to help themselves as well as others. These skills, knowledge,
and perceptions one acquires or sharpens through training and learning are a part of
'human resources." By participating in the learning-by-doing process, partner families
may accumulate human resources at the individual level.
Habitat also requires partner families to contribute hundreds of hours to work on
other Habitat houses during the sweat equity phase. In turn, these partner families receive
the same help from volunteers and other partner families to build their own houses.
During the giving and receiving interactions, partner families may build the social
connections or ties at the community level. These are part of "social resources."
Based on learning-by-doing theory, it is hypothesized that a) the number of sweat
equity hours is associated with the amount of human and social resources accumulated
through sweat equity; and b) the number of types of activities a family participates in
sweat equity is associated with the amount of human and social resources accumulated
through sweat equity.
Hypothesis 2: Resource maintenance in two settings
Habitat families build houses in two types of settings: scattered lots and Habitat
neighborhoods. Greater segregation occurs in Habitat neighborhoods than in scattered
sites because it is likely that the percentage of very-low income families in Habitat
neighborhoods is higher than that in scattered sites. However, the AREA study (Mitchell
& Warren, 1998) reported that Habitat families who lived in clusters or subdivisions were
more satisfied than families who lived in scattered homes. This finding indicates that the
physical settings of the houses may contribute to the maintenance of human and social
resources acquired through sweat equity. Since the sweat equity process is structured on
generalized social exchange, it is hypothesized that a) a Habitat neighborhood, as
opposed to houses in scattered sites, helps to build and preserve the human and social
resources built through sweat equity; and b) families living in Habitat neighborhoods, as
opposed to families living in scattered sites, do not feel segregated.
Hypothesis 3: Sweat equity as design participation
Habitat families do not have complete control over the design and planning phases.
The design participation is limited to selection from a few design options. Without
addressing design participation, it is unknown whether or not these selections meet and
satisfy the needs of the families. Reis (2000) empirically related successful mass housing
design to user participation. Accordingly, it is hypothesized that: a) there is an association
between the number of design-related activities and satisfaction with the design solution;
b) the number of types of design participation is associated with house satisfaction and
neighborhood satisfaction; and c) design participation is related to the maintenance of
human and social resources.
Definitions and Operational Terms
A conceptual framework is developed to incorporate the doing, learning, and
sharing experiences of sweat equity and the impact of sweat equity on Habitat families'
lives. The framework (see Figure 2-3) is shown and further explained in Chapter 2.
Detailed information about individual variables is available in Chapter 3. This framework
is modified from Gifford's learning model (Gifford, 2002, p. 299) and community
psychology model (2002, p. 265). In this conceptual framework, participation or sweat
equity is positioned as the driving factor building human and social resources. This model
provides theoretical guidance for exploring the reciprocal interactions between persons
and their physical and social environments.
Sweat equity refers to the extent to which partner families invest in their houses,
including the total number of sweat equity hours, the number of types of sweat equity
activities (training, construction, public activities, and design participation), and the
meanings of sweat equity.
Human resources refer to the skills and house-related behaviors and the perceptions
about the individual's house itself. Human resources include house maintenance skills,
financing skills, frequency of house maintenance, pride in skills, confidence in skills,
pride in house, house attachment, self-responsibility, self-esteem, house satisfaction,
design solution satisfaction, and design participation satisfaction.
Social resources refer to the social behaviors within the neighborhood and the
perceptions of neighbors and the neighborhood. Social resources include neighboring,
social support, neighborhood involvement, pride in neighborhood, satisfaction with
neighborhood, safety, neighborhood attachment, sense of community, trust in neighbors,
reciprocity, sense of obligation, and segregation.
Scattered sites refer to the locations where there are no other Habitat homes on the
same street, or where a few Habitat houses are on the same street but there are less than
ten Habitat houses in the same block.
Habitat neighborhoods refer to the locations where ten or more Habitat houses are
clustered, or where Habitat houses are surrounded only by homes built by Habitat in the
Design participation is the extent to which Habitat families participate in the design
and planning process of their houses. Design participation is measured by the number of
types of activities related to design and planning of a house, including choosing interior
colors, finishes, and layouts; exterior colors, finishes, and yard; selecting the lot and
taking part in the neighborhood public space planning.
House satisfaction, design solution satisfaction, and neighborhood satisfaction refer
to the fulfillment of the house, design, and neighborhood of Habitat families' desires or
needs, respectively. See Appendix A: Survey Instruments and Appendix B: Interview
Questions for detailed measures.
Habitat for Humanity has executed sweat equity to help low- and very low-income
families build affordable houses in two different settings: scattered sites or Habitat
neighborhoods. During the sweat equity phase families must participate in the
construction of their own houses as well as the construction of other houses. This study
first redefines sweat equity in the Habitat context. Then this study explores if and how
this participation helps the families to build human resources to maintain their houses and
social resources to maintain their neighborhoods. Next, it compares which setting
provides a more supporting environment for low-income families to maintain their
human and social resources acquired during the sweat equity. Finally, it explores design
implications from the low-income homeowners' point of view. Since participation is
context-specific, a case study is appropriate to explore the participatory process and the
impact of sweat equity in neighborhoods and scattered sites.
The study of sweat equity, human resources, and social resources is complex in
nature and specific in context. There has been little attention in the literature to establish a
comprehensive framework to study the links between sweat equity and resources built
into the housing process. The dynamic and individualized sweat equity process requires
an extensive literature review from multiple dimensions. This chapter introduces a new
conceptualized framework built upon the theory of learning-by-doing and generalized
social exchange. From the doing perspective, this chapter reviews the literature of sweat
equity, participation in housing, and self-help. From the learning and sharing
perspectives, this chapter investigates human and social resource developments. From the
design perspective, this chapter examines the history of user participation in design
process. Research approaches and instruments are discussed as well.
Habitat sweat equity provides low-income families a chance to change their lives.
But why does Habitat help people to build a house through sweat equity instead of
providing them with a house? How is sweat equity different? Dewey's "learning-by-
doing" explains sweat equity from a learning perspective. And the generalized social
exchange theory provides a theoretical basis for sweat equity from a sharing perspective.
Learning by Doing
According to Dewey (1980), human action was a transaction between the person
and the environment, during which the person was not just a passive vessel but also an
actor who changed the environment. The experience connected the action with its
consequences. To Dewey, learning experiences "cover all the doings that involve growth
of power-especially of power to realize the meaning of what is done" (1939, p. 607).
Dewey (1939) believed that the doing experiences contain the learning process when the
experiences result in personal growth. The achievement of personal growth comes not
only from the experience but also the meaning constructed from it (Miettinen, 2000). In
accordance with this school of thought, Rodgers (2002) distinguished routine actions
from educative actions, depending on whether or not one realizes the meanings of the
Deweyan learning by doing inspired multiple perspectives of learning experiences,
such as adult learning (Marsick & Watkins, 2001), social interactions during learning
(Nowotny, Scott, & Gibbons, 2001; Roschelle & Clancey, 1992), problem-based learning
(Argyris, 1997; Savery & Duffy, 2001), and experience-based learning (Andersen, Boud,
& Cohen, 2000). From examining the organizational development in social housing and
tenant participation in Britain, Reid and Hickman (2002) pointed out that tenant
participation transformed the housing organization into a learning organization. The top-
down participation resulted in single-loop learning, but the bottom-up participation
promoted mutual learning, which potentially improved the housing organization itself
(Blantern & Belcher, 1994).
According to the learning-by-doing theory, sweat equity is a doing process that
allows families to learn skills to build their houses. In Habitat, knowing how to build a
house is the first task for most families who have never used a hammer. However, this
know-how is not learned in a classroom. Learning is achieved through building a house
and working with other persons. The personal growth can refer to human resources
(knowledge, technical skills, perceptions, and so forth) and social resources (social skills,
trust, network, sense of community, and so forth). Since families help others first and
receive help from volunteers in return, sweat equity may involve social learning through
this mutual sharing process. All activities in sweat equity require Habitat families to
partner with others to do something for other people as well as for themselves, such as
working in a Habitat office, babysitting for other families' children, and building houses
together. The families have a chance to learn and share something, and they can use these
learned experiences for personal growth.
Dewey's pragmatic learning-by-doing theoretically guides this study of sweat
equity as a learning process. The logic of these sharing experiences may be supported by
the generalized social exchange theory.
Generalized Social Exchange
The learning-by-doing occurs when individuals interact with their physical and
social environment. Proper social interactions or exchanges in a social environment will
encourage the learning experiences (Dewey, 1939). The concept of social exchange is
derived from the belief that people construct and maintain sufficient social interactions
because "no man is an island" (Schroeder, Penner, Dovidio, & Piliavin, 1995, p. 219).
People are interdependent rather than independent, and collaborative social exchange is
necessary for human survival and self-advance. Two social exchange theories, the British
individualistic and French collectivistic orientations, were developed based on whether
behaviors were explained by self-interests or norms and obligations (Ekeh, 1974).
Homans used the cost and reward concepts to explain social exchange behaviors
between two parties for both economic and psychological needs. His individualistic
social exchange theory was built upon the self-interest theory, that society resulted from
the needs required by individuals or subgroups (Ekeh, 1974).
Levi-Strauss explained the collective social phenomena as the result of the
collective unconscious of the human mind (Ekeh, 1974). Levi-Strauss coined the term
generalized exchange to describe a social system that needed equality, partnerships,
credit, and trust for the continuity of interactions. The generalized social exchange occurs
when an individual feels obligated to give back to any actors in the chain of social
exchange. Ekeh (1974) distinguished two forms of generalized exchange: group-
generalized exchange and network-generalized exchange. In the group-generalized
exchange, individuals pool their economic, physical, or human resources and receive
benefits generated by the collaborative activities. In the network-generalized exchange, a
person who helps others does not expect return benefits directly from the same person.
Instead, an individual receives assistance or benefits from the others whom he or she may
not even know. Similar, Allop, Fifield, and Seiter (2002) used the term intra-group
favoritism and inter-group favoritism to distinguish generalized reciprocity or exchange,
depending on whether or not the mutual commitment is limited only to the group. This
network-based relationship or the inter-group favoritism encourages individuals to be
more active, and it involves more interactions and responsibilities (Yamagishi & Cook,
Mutual trust and the norm of reciprocity are the basis for constructing and
maintaining a continuing social exchange network, which, in turn, promotes mutual trust
and reinforces reciprocity (Ekeh, 1974). Network-based community participation is built
upon the norms of reciprocity: I do it for you now, and I expect you or others will do
ii'lluilig similar in turn sometimefor me. In this way, trust is built along with the
development of social capital (Putnam & Gross, 2002). Frequent interactions among a
diverse set of people tend to produce a norm of generalized reciprocity. Based on the
mutual obligations, it benefits not only the participants but also outsiders as well. Once
the social exchange system is normalized, it becomes the norm of reciprocity. Social
relations create values through generalized social interactions (Putnam, 2000).
Sweat equity requires families to build a house along with those who are in need.
This participation involves three stages of social exchanges: 1) learning construction
skills from Habitat staff or other families; 2) helping others in Habitat offices, thrift
stores, or others families' houses; and 3) being helped when volunteers come to build
one's own house. This participatory process requires one to help others first and accepts
assistance from the same person or other persons sometime in the near future. In other
words, this sweat equity process contains generalized social exchanges that may promote
human and social skill development.
Requiring partner families to help others first before receiving help eliminates the
possibility of "free riders" that take the benefits without giving back to the common good
in this sweat equity exchange. Partner families meet new people and work together to
solve their housing problems. This social exchange is generalized rather than on a one-to-
one basis. Therefore, it is assumed that the trust and the giving-taking pattern persist after
sweat equity is completed because these generalized social exchanges are network-based.
Families may feel obliged to give back to their neighbors and neighborhoods after
receiving help from volunteers. By setting up the norm of giving-receiving by Habitat, it
is expected that this norm of reciprocity and the trust built through sweat equity will be
maintained better if Habitat families live together in one neighborhood rather than live
sparsely in scattered sites.
During the network-based generalized social exchanges in sweat equity, doing,
learning, and sharing enable Habitat families to solve their housing problems collectively.
However, there have been no existing models within Habitat studies that have
incorporated all three aspects of sweat equity. The literature shows that the research on
participation is inadequate and inconsistent in definition and measures (Chavis &
Wandersman, 1990; Perkins, Brown, & Taylor, 1996; Perkins, Florin, Rich,
Wandersman, & Chavis, 1990; Prestby, Wandersman, Florin, Rich, & Chavis, 1990). A
new conceptual framework that involves participation, learning by doing, and sharing is
critical to understanding what sweat equity is and the impact of sweat equity to the
The conceptual model of learning by doing in a Habitat context (see Figure 2-1) is
adapted from Gifford's informal learning model and cognitive and behavioral model in a
physical community. Gifford (2002) defined learning as "a relatively permanent change
in behavior that occurs as [a] result of experience" (p. 299). Gifford proposed a general
framework (2002, p. 299) to describe how students learn in formal learning settings.
In his learning model, the personal characteristics of students interact with the
physical and social setting, and these interactions produce learning attitudes and learning
behaviors. However, he did not incorporate the doing as a process in his model. Gifford
also did not specify the process of learning or the outcomes of learning. Without
emphasizing the learning as a process, it was challenging to identify what people learned
and how to improve the learning experience.
of learners Learning-related
Physical features of the
Figure 2-1. Simplified model from Gifford's framework of conceptualizing person-
environment relations in learning settings (2002).
In another model that explained residents' cognitive and behavioral responses to
their physical community, Gifford (2002, p. 265) included the learning outcomes and
regarded design as an essential part of the environment-psychology cycle (see Figure 2-
2). But in this model residents were static and passive players, and he ignored the
interaction between persons and their physical environment.
Resident Community cognitions Behavior in the
Physical Urban planning
Figure 2-2. Simplified Gifford's model for urban environmental psychology (2002).
A new model was needed to fit the learning experience in a low-income residential
setting with very special background: homes built by the homeowners who were
organized by Habitat for Humanity. After extensive readings about participation,
housing, human and social resources, a new model (see Figure 2-3) was proposed. The
new model positions learning-by-doing (sweat equity as participation) as the driving
force, and considers outcomes in terms of human and social resource building. Physical
settings and residents' characteristic may influence the outcomes as well. In comparison
to Gifford's models, this framework explores the learning as a process. Learning
activities, residents' characteristics, and physical settings together influence the physical
and social outcomes or resources. Therefore, residents are regarded as active learners
rather than passive recipients. Since the literature review was intensive, the new
framework was introduced as a guiding framework for the literature review.
Based on the conceptualized framework, the following sections review sweat
equity as housing participation, investigate human and social resource developments, and
evaluate the impact of geographic segregation on housing. User's involvement in the
design process will be addressed as design participation. Research approaches and
instruments are also discussed.
Sweat Equity Human Resource
For example: Development
Learn to help/build Social Resource
Build with sharing Development
Participate in design
Residents' Characteristics Physical Settings
For example: For example:
Age Houses in scattered sites
Education Habitat neighborhoods
Figure 2-3. Conceptualized framework for sweat equity in a Habitat context.
General Background Information
Habitat for Humanity partners with volunteers, churches, local businesses,
foundations, governments, organizations, and people in need. Government funding is
used to acquire land and construct infrastructure, such as streets, sidewalks, and utilities,
but federal funding is prohibited from building and renovating or for administrative
purposes. Though Habitat is a Christian organization, it welcomes everyone regardless of
race, color, or creed. Houses are financed with interest-free loans. Although sweat equity
is a required commitment of Habitat families, it is broadly defined as the willingness to
work. The work Habitat families do includes a variety of activities, such as working in a
thrift store, babysitting for others, painting one's house, and attending training courses.
The partner families must meet certain requirements for income and concurrent living
conditions and be willing to commit sweat equity on other families' houses as well as
their own. Sweat equity starts after families are identified as being eligible for the Habitat
program and ends when they move into their new homes. The required sweat equity
hours usually range from 300 to 500 hours. Local Habitat affiliates decide how to
distribute the hours among individual activities.
Sweat Equity as Participation
Completing the minimum sweat equity hours is mandatory in a Habitat program.
During these sweat equity hours, families participate in the process of building other
families' houses as well as their own houses. Most people use the term sweat equity or
participation without a clear understanding about what it is and what it means to the
residents. This section traces user participation in housing, self-help housing as a special
type of user participation in housing, and sweat equity as a unique means in Habitat self-
The concept of participation is open and context-specific. The term participation
first appeared in the 14th century, referring to "the act of participating" or "the state of
being related to a larger whole" (Merriam-Webster, 2003). Synonyms of participation
include citizen involvement, cooperation, and self-decision. Generally participation
implies the presence of the users and taking control in defining the problem, elaborating
the solution, and evaluating of the results.
Housing, in this study, is regarded as a meaningful process rather than a product
(Turner, 1977). In addition to the house's physical forms and market value, the meanings
or values are added to a house through the users' participation in the planning and
designing, building, and maintaining processes of their houses. Accordingly, participation
in housing should be understood in each of these three stages. Many researchers
emphasized citizen participation in the planning stage (Cressey, Martino, Bal, Treu, &
Traynor, 1987), such as consulting and public hearings, and in the maintenance stage,
such as volunteerism, voting, and community meetings (Langton, 1978). Some scholars
addressed participation in the design process (Reis, 2000; Sanoff, 1992b). The World
Bank (2002) addressed the importance of control and decision-making and defined
participation as "a process through which stakeholders influence and share control over
development initiatives and the decisions and resources which affect them." According to
the World Bank's definition, user participation has been mostly ignored in the low-
income housing history of the United States.
Federal low-income housing agencies and programs in the United States were
established to relieve the depressed economic and social conditions during the 1920s and
1930s. During the early period of subsidized housing history, the Housing Division of the
Public Works Administration (PWA) aimed to revitalize business districts by preventing
the middle-class from fleeing to suburbs and by stimulating large-scale building in
downtown areas. The low-quality, low-income housing in central cities was seen as a
threat to the business districts and an economic burden to taxpayers. Slum-clearance and
new construction of public housing brought cities immediate economic benefits and
social relief from urban sprawl (Coulibaly, Green, & James, 1998).
In 1937, the U.S. Housing Authority (USHA) replaced PWA to provide financial
and technical assistance to local Public Housing Authorities (PHA), addressing
unemployment problems and the shortage of decent, safe, and sanitary units for low-
income families. Under the "equivalent elimination" that required building a new public
housing unit with each destroyed unit, local authorities could decide where and how
much public housing to build. During urban renewal, low-income families from central
areas were displaced. The low-income families had no control over where to move. As a
result, the number of low-income families (mostly minorities) living in substandard
housing increased. Often, relocation created racial and income segregation within low-
Low-income housing policies in the United States do not directly respond to the
needs of the low-income families, but instead to the economic and social needs of the
mainstream of the society. Federal low-income housing programs focus on the rental
market rather than homeownership, and recipients get direct subsidies with no means to
influence the housing process until they move in. Even though currently the U.S.
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires citizen participation at
the state level in the Consolidated Plan for community development, participation is
usually regarded as the outcome or byproduct at the community level rather than an
influential drive at the individual level. Debates have occurred over the effectiveness of
this "top-down" citizen participation. Green and Haines (2002) criticized such models
and declared that there was no power for the low-income residents to make critical
decisions. Consequently, user participation is only superficial when and if there is any in
low-income housing policies.
Although HUD currently keeps a low profile on promoting genuine user
participation in low-income housing, researchers advocated participation because it was
beneficial to the well-being of homeowners, as well as to their neighborhoods and to
society (Bruin & Cook, 1997; Florin & Wandersman, 1990; Perkins et al., 1996; Perkins
et al., 1990; Rohe & Basolo, 1997; Rohe & Stegman, 1994b; Schmidt, 1998; Taggart,
1995). But in these studies, participation was regarded either as the number of
organizations or neighborhood meetings a person attended or as a byproduct of other
social factors. Finn (1994) identified sweat equity as a process of empowerment among
Habitat homeowners. However, she did not have quantitative data to support her
statements. Participation needs to be positioned as a dynamic yet measurable input from
the end-users rather than being a static number of organizations or meetings.
Reis (2000) found that residents prefer user participation in the design process to
user remodeling after the construction is complete. But federal housing programs seem
reluctant to give up the control over the housing processes (Hasell & Scanzoni, 2000).
Compared to HUD programs, non-profit self-help housing programs incorporate
participation into daily practice.
Self-help housing (SHH) is a special type of participation in housing that
minimizes costs for housing through individual sweat equity. Margolis and Turner
(Harms, 1982) identified three types of SHH in the United States: independent SHH, in
which users decide what and how to build without external help; organized SHH, in
which users enter a program and become involved in a part of decision-making; and
employed SHH, in which users enter a program and receive minimum pay. Harms (1982)
defined self-help housing as "housing produced directly by the users, individually or
collectively" (p. 45).
In colonial America, self-help housing was the most common practice for housing
provision, which involved the families' own sweat and the help from friends, neighbors,
and local craftsmen. The house planning and design usually satisfied users' needs. As the
society shifted from farms to cities and industry with an increasing division of labor and
organizations, houses were produced and distributed in an increasingly complex process
for the accumulation of profit. Controlled by the relationship between supply and
demand, housing production became a capitalistic commodity exchange, and housing
distribution facilitated stratification of a society according to income levels, not to needs
(Harms, 1982). Yet in capitalistic societies, SHH recurs whenever and wherever
capitalism is weak and affordable housing is not available, such as in developing
countries or rural areas in developed countries.
The United States uses a filtering process to stratify housing needs. When a natural
filtering process cannot keep up with the growing demands, government intercedes. The
first federal attempt was employed during the Great Depression. In the 1930s, the Federal
Housing Authority (FHA) and U.S. Housing Authority (USHA) were created to assist the
urban poor. Federal assistance was only able to shelter less than 10% of the eligible low-
income population (Coulibaly et al., 1998). Since federal resources were completely
inadequate given the scale of the problem, self-help became a popular form of social
support and behavior change (Cherniss & Cherniss, 1987). The first significant public
SHH effort was conducted by the County Relief Board of Westmoreland County,
Pennsylvania in 1933. Unemployed coal miners built self-sufficient communities
together. By 1940, participants completed approximately 250 homes (Harms, 1982;
Spohn, 1972). In the 1940s, Puerto Rico set up a mutual-help program to resettle those
who lost job or lands in a huge crisis of unemployment. Under political and racial
pressures in the late 1960s, federal housing agencies felt the need for alternatives to
provide low-income housing without increasing the public burden. In 1968, the Housing
and Home Finance Agency, the predecessor of HUD, conducted a study on the self-help
phenomenon "in the construction, rehabilitation, and maintenance of housing for low
income persons and families and the methods of selecting, involving, and directing such
persons and families in self-help activities" (Spohn, 1972, pp. 23-24). The study showed
that SHH could reduce construction costs through unpaid labor, management, and
volunteerism. However, HUD was ultimately not interested in SHH because HUD was
structured to serve the housing industry, not individuals (Grindley, 1972; Harms, 1982;
Spohn, 1972; Turner, 1977). After the HUD Act of 1970 repealed self-help
demonstration projects for managerial reasons, HUD kept a low profile in SHH by
providing limited technical assistance and funding to non-profit organizations. The only
direct involvement of HUD is in the Mutual Self-Help Housing program by Rural
Housing and Community Development Services in U.S. Department of Agriculture
(USDA) (Spohn, 1972).
Self-help discussions during the 1960s and 1970s were oriented to squatter housing
and substandard housing in developing countries. Advocates considered it SHH a positive
solution to housing and social problems because housing was constructed, and it
encouraged an individual's independence from political, economic, and historical
contexts (Turner, 1977). Turner (1977) believed that taking control over decision-
making, self-building, and managing became the key factors for a better physical
environment, higher satisfaction, and greater self-responsibility. Arizmendi (2003)
asserted that SHH gave low-income people an opportunity to recognize that they could
change their homes, their community, and their lives. In a comparison study of a self-help
rehabilitation program and other subsidized housing programs, self-help had more
positive impact on residents and their living environment (Turner, 1977). The "bottom-
up" user participation is the key factor of SHH during which housing democratizes and
The SHH approach, however, received criticism for its short-term benefits and non-
theoretical implications to the society. The opponents questioned whether or not SHH
was an adequate basis for low-income housing for political, economical, and ideological
reasons (Burgess, 1982). The criticism was focused on management (lack of quality
control, services, and endurance), the government's low commitment to long-term
solutions, and the social inequality caused by extensive unpaid labor of unskilled
homeowners (Harms, 1982; Ward, 1982). In other words, SHH solved low-income
housing problems "at the expense of the users, while capital accumulation processes are
kept intact" (Harms, 1982, p. 51). However, the opponents of SHH ignored the social
gains through self-help housing: empowerment at the individual level and local level
(Tait, 1997; Turner, 1982). Tait (1997) suggested that SHH could be more effective if the
SHH approach involved the neighbors, as well as local and state planners. Although the
SHH approach could not provide mass housing production as HUD policies aimed at, it
significantly changes the lives of the self-helpers who take control over the planning,
designing, and building processes of their own houses with their sweat equity.
Sweat equity in Habitat
In general, sweat equity incorporates both the doing behavior and value of the
labor. In dictionaries, sweat equity is defined as "equity in a property resulting from labor
invested in the improvements that increase its value" or "the labor so invested"
(Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, 2003). The American Heritage Dictionary of the
English Language (2000) claims that ownership is a part of sweat equity.
In the housing industry, sweat equity is often related to homeownership and control
over one's living space. The tenant-landlord relationship discourages sweat equity
because it is difficult to determine the ownership of the equity added through a tenant's
sweat (Harris, 2003). Long before "do-it-yourself' (DIY) was coined, owners built equity
into their houses by investing their own labor. The houses may start from scratch or
sometimes homeowners buy an unfinished "shell" and decorate the interiors (Harris,
2003). Since the late 19th and early 20th centuries, building regulations in cities set stricter
requirements for health and safety considerations. For example, electric equipment and
plumbing should be installed by union labor. It became difficult for future amateur
homeowners to have all the necessary skills to build a new home. Industrialization also
discourages the sweat equity approach by shifting housing provisions and distribution
into the hands of a free housing market and the filtering process. Established in the
1930s, the FHA and USHA intervened in the low-income housing process by providing
low-rent public housing and federal government insurance of individual home mortgages
at market interest rate. After World War II, the prevailing needs of housing for returning
veterans and the ever-expanding urbanism accelerated the gap between what government
intervention and the free market produced and the housing needs (United Nations Center
for Human Settlements [UNCHS], 1999). In the 1950s and 1960s, sweat equity again
showed the potential to solve a part of the housing problems.
Habitat for Humanity was an innovation of sweat equity by a legendary figure in
the 1970s. Millard Fuller, a young millionaire, found that the expanding affluence could
not give him health, integrity, and a solution to his marriage crisis. After re-evaluating his
life, Fuller and his wife Linda gave away all their wealth and started over (Baggett, 2003;
Giri, 2002). In December 1965, the Fullers first visited Koinonia Farms, an interracial,
self-sufficient Christian farming community in southwestern Georgia. About two and a
half years later, Fuller and C. Jordan, the Founder of Koinonia Farms, initiated a program
called Koinonia Partners, addressing partnership farming, partnership industries, and
partnership housing. The partnership housing program helps to build non-profit houses on
the basis of a partnership between the Koinonia Farms and the homeowners. Families
invested their own sweat into their houses with volunteers. Families paid no-interest
loans with which more houses could be built. The partnership housing later became the
primary focus of Koinonia Partners. Other than working within Koinonia Farms, the
Fullers tested the sweat equity model in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo)
for three years. When they came back to Koinonia Farms in 1976, Fuller summoned a
three-day conference with 27 committed friends during which the Habitat for Humanity
was born (Baggett, 2003).
Habitat refers to sweat equity as the "labor that Habitat homeowners expend in
building their houses and the houses of their neighbors, as well as the time they spend
investing in their own self-improvement" (Lassman-Eul, 2001). Defined by Ocala Habitat
for Humanity, sweat equity is "the physical labor the partner family put under [into]
building of their home to replace the traditional monetary down payment" (Nimmo, B.,
personal communication, June 11, 2003). These definitions emphasize the physical labor
in relation to building houses, but they ignore the activities in relation to building social
relations and a sense of community. Since Habitat does not specify in detail the nature of
the labor activities in which a family should participate and how the family's time should
be divided among different activities, Habitat families do different tasks even within one
affiliate. The above definition does not explain the term self-improvement clearly, and it
does not indicate what values sweat equity adds.
Fuller (2000) asserted that Habitat "build pride and confidence by involving
families in the construction of their own homes and encouraging them to help other
families become Habitat homeowners" (p. 31). He emphasized the importance of
partnership because it generated sharing of many resources in addition to homes (Giri,
2002, p. 50). In a report of community building, Torjman (1998) claimed that sweat
equity was a form of human capital with which to create affordable housing. But he did
not regard sweat equity as a form of social capital for the homeowners.
Commissioned by HUD in 1997, the Applied Real Estate Analysis (AREA), Inc.
worked with Habitat for Humanity International and local affiliates to conduct a study
about Habitat homeownership experiences. The AREA study concluded that Habitat was
"structured to nurture families and break the poverty cycle-not just provide an
affordable house" (Mitchell & Warren, 1998, p. VI-4). It indicated that sweat equity
allowed Habitat families to gain resources or values other than just physical
environments. Since the AREA study measured neither the sweat equity nor the results of
sweat equity, it was unable to empirically define the specific impact of sweat equity to
According to the nature of activities a family may encounter, sweat equity in
Habitat is then re-defined as the time and effort in which partner families invest through
learning by doing to collectively build and maintain their physical resources, as well as
human and social resources. The physical resources, or physical capital, include
individual houses and neighborhoods. Human resources include knowledge, construction
and maintenance skills, commitment, self-esteem, perceptions of skills, and so forth.
Social resources include social connections, trust, a sense of community, and so forth.
Both human and social resources are necessary for homeowners to act collectively and
maintain their houses and neighborhoods. The new definition first emphasizes sweat
equity 1) as a process by setting the time requirement; 2) as participation through
investing one's own effort; 3) as an enlightening process through learning by doing; 4) as
a sharing experience by doing collectively; and 5) as a resource development process to
reflect the idea of self-improvement. Although the concept does not specify individual
activities in sweat equity, it indicates that all activities in relation to the building and
maintaining of one's physical, human, and social resources could account for sweat
Sweat equity is also used by other non-profit organizations to eliminate substandard
housing. For example, the Self-Help Opportunity Program, Mutual Self-Help Program,
and USDA Rural Development all use sweat equity. Examining what sweat equity is and
what it means to the homeowners potentially contribute to all low-income housing
programs that are using or have the potential to use sweat equity as a means to build
affordable and decent homes.
In sum, building a Habitat home is an organized self-help process. Habitat affiliates
raise funds, obtain planning and building permits, select partner families, and coordinate
volunteers and construction. A low-income family enters the program and becomes the
major stakeholder who helps other families build their homes. Although Habitat is not a
self-run organization by the people in need, partner families do have some control over
the designing, building process of their homes, and full control and responsibility for the
completed home's maintenance and management. Through the sweat equity process,
Habitat not only provides low-income people with the financial and technical assistance,
but also shows these families the housing process. Although building a house is a one-
time project, a home is a long-term project in terms of maintenance, repairs, redecoration,
and financial management.
In this study, sweat equity is the participation of Habitat partner families. Sweat
equity usually takes months for the partner families to accomplish. During the sweat
equity process, partner families make some design-related decisions about their houses.
They learn new skills, work hundreds of hours on their houses and the houses of others,
pay for their houses, and take the responsibility to maintain it. Fuller believed that sweat
equity built pride and a sense of responsibility, which was reflected in the good
maintenance and care given to Habitat houses. The key factors to understand sweat equity
as a participation process include: 1) how many hours sweat equity requires; 2) what
types of activities families do during sweat equity; and 3) what sweat equity means to the
As participation, sweat equity directly contributes to the construction of physical
houses and infrastructure. Since families learn new skills and interact with other people
during sweat equity, exploring what families learn is necessary for a holistic
understanding of sweat equity.
Sweat Equity as Learning and Sharing
In addition to physical houses, the other resources that families may acquire include
human and social capital (resources), which together influence the physical environment
(Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD], 2001). Some
effects of human and social capital on economic and physical capital may take longer to
emerge. When partner families learn new skills and work with other people to build their
respective houses, the sweat equity process encourages human and social capital building
in addition to the development of physical houses.
Human resource development
New skills and knowledge are acquired through interacting with one's physical or
social environment (Dewey, 1939; Roth, 1962). These acquisitions are a part of human
resources. Human resources include human abilities, knowledge, skills, health,
appreciation, and other talents. Researchers also refer to human resources as human
capital to emphasize the productivity of human resources (Cassidy & Jake, 2002; Green
& Haines, 2002).
Human resource or capital is a relatively new concept. Labor, land, physical capital,
and social capital were the four basic factors of production in economics. Beginning in
the early 1960s, the quality of labor aroused large-scale attention. It was believed that
through education and training, workers' productivity would be improved, and
consequently the earning-based investment in human capital could be returned. Ostrom
defined human capital as "the required knowledge and skills that an individual brings to
an activity" (2000, p. 175). The Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Development (OECD) (2001) defined human capital in a broader sense as the
"knowledge, skills, competencies and attributes embodied in individuals that facilitate the
creation of personal, social and economic well-being." The knowledge and skills can be
acquired from formal education and training and informal learning in daily interactions.
In many housing programs, human resources are invested in the form of social services
and adult education (Torjman, 1998). Habitat believes that the learned construction skills
encourage individuals to stand on their own feet in terms of taking care of their homes.
The term human resource instead of human capital is used in this study to address
the skills and perceptions one immediately acquires or sharpens to build and maintain
one's house and neighborhood through learning by doing. Habitat families need to build
and take care of their houses. These skills can be accumulated either consciously by
seminar and task training or unconsciously through field experiences. Through formal
training, Habitat families learn about household budgeting and how to be a homeowner.
The unconscious investments in human resources continue in the building and
volunteering process. Human resource is fundamental to building and maintaining the
Some researchers (Barro, 2001; Cohen & Prusak, 2001; Cohen, 1988) were
interested in human resources at the organizational level rather than at the individual
level. For example, according to the United Nations Center for Human Settlements
(UNCHS), capacity building included human resources and leadership development,
training, institutional reform, organizational and managerial development at three levels:
policy, institution, and community (UNCHS, 1999). When Nye and Glickman (2000)
studied organizations, resources, networks, programs, and political capacity among
community partners, they realized the importance of learning to the non-profit
organizations, but not to the residents. There is an emerging need to study human
resources from the user's perspective. The AREA study reported that Habitat families
rated the training through the Habitat program as being helpful or very helpful (Mitchell
& Warren, 1998). But the study did not identify what families learned from training and
failed to recognize the informal "learning-by-doing" during the daily interactions with
their physical and social environments.
Social resource development
By working with volunteers and other partner families, Habitat families may
develop certain social resources that are essential for the maintenance of a neighborhood.
Social resources, also known as social capital, refer to the social connections (network)
among individuals or the ties that facilitate collective action, build trust, self-esteem, a
sense of community, and mutual support in the community (Bourdieu, 1983; Coleman,
1988; Green & Haines, 2002; Putnam, 2000; Putnam & Gross, 2002).
In the 1920s, L. J. Hanifan coined the term social capital to describe the tangible
social resources in the daily life of ordinary people: good will, friendship, sympathy, and
social interaction (Putnam & Gross, 2002). Since then, social capital was used in the
analysis of city neighborhoods (Jacobs, 1961), the labor market (Loury, 1987), the
relationship with human capital (Coleman, 1988), and the social capital at different levels
(Fukuyama, 1995; Putnam, Leonardi, & Nanetti, 1993). In the literature, discussions were
focused on what qualified as social capital rather than what constituted it (Uphoff, 2000).
Uphoff (2000) suggested rigorous analysis of social capital in participation. He used
structural social capital to define the tangible social organizations and related rules,
networks, and procedures. Cognitive social capital was used to describe intangible mental
processes, such as trust, cooperation, norms, values, attitudes, and beliefs. Putnam (2000)
used the informal and formal infrastructure of an organization to describe the relationship
between insiders and outsiders. The formal pattern of connections included being a
member of an organization and attending meetings at church, unions, or political parties.
The informal social connections referred to interactions among people, such as having
coffee with family members, playing baseball with friends, and lending a tool to a
neighbor (Putnam, 2000).
Since social resource development is context-specific, social sciences, community
psychology, and community development have different emphases on certain aspects of
social resources in the setting.
In the social sciences, scholars favor norms, networks, trust, and levels of
engagement or interaction in social activities (Hays, 2002; OECD, 2001; Putnam, 2000).
Kleit (2001) compared the social ties for looking for a job between female public housing
residents living in small clusters in a non-poor area and those in a dispersed housing
pattern. She found that dispersed residents had neighborhood social networks with greater
diversity, although they used their neighbors less frequently to look for a job than people
living in clusters. The dispersed residents did not feel close to their neighbors, compared
to residents in clusters. Although Kleit emphasized job-hunting, her study indicated that
the clusters promoted a sense of closeness among low-income residents, which might
contribute to a better neighborhood. Saegert, Winkel, and Swartz (2002) surveyed 487
buildings in New York and identified three components of social capital that were related
to crime prevention. These components were basic participation in tenant association
activities, norms, and formal participation in building leadership, management, and
maintenance. The informal neighboring activities were found not significant to crime
prevention. Homeownership, building characteristics, and housing policy might influence
the effectiveness of social capital.
In community psychology, scholars addressed the psychological aspects of social
capital, such as sense of community (Chavis, Hogge, McMillan, & Wandersman, 1986;
Chavis & Wandersman, 1990; Cochrun, 1994; McMillan, 1996; McMillan & Chavis,
1986; Perkins et al., 1990; Pretty, 1990); community attachment (John, Austin, & Baba,
1986; Riger, 2001); neighborhood attachment (Crenshaw & John, 1989; Wells, 2000;
Woolerver, 1992); residential attachment (Fried, 1982); and neighborhood cohesion
(Buckner, 1988; Litwak, 1961). Temkin and Rohe (1998) studied the relationship
between social capital and the stability of a neighborhood. Acknowledging the few
efforts to measure social capital at a neighborhood level, they used voting, resident
volunteerism and presence of neighborhood organization to examine the institutional
infrastructure. They used affective attachment, facilities for social interaction, a sense of
community and neighboring activities (visiting, helping, and borrowing items) to measure
the social-cultural milieu of a neighborhood. They found that loyalty and attachment to
neighborhood explained stability while neighboring and spatial distribution of residents'
friends and relatives were not significant to predict stability. They pointed out, however,
that their study could not respond to how to build social capital in neighborhoods. Prezza
and Costantini (1998) explored the relationship between sense of community, life
satisfaction, self-esteem, perceived social support and satisfaction with community
services in a small town, a small city, and a city in Italy. The results showed that sense of
community and life satisfaction were higher in the small town as compared with in the
larger communities. Although Chavis and other researchers (1986) expected that
homeownership and living in the community for years would encourage a higher sense of
community, Prezza and Costantini's study did not find that association, which might be
explained by the cultural differences of the specific setting.
In community development, social resources were explored through the
relationships among homeownership, neighborhood, and satisfaction. The literature
indicates that homeownership plays a role in house maintenance and repairs (Galster,
1983; 1987; 2003; Mayer, 1981), and homeowners may acquire do it yourself skills for
house repair, negotiating with contractors and plumbers, and seeking refinancing (Boehm
& Schlottman, 1999; Green & White, 1997). Homeowners are more likely to participate
in informal social participation (Hunter, 1975; Jeffers & Dobos, 1984), in commitment to
neighborhood (Austin & Baba, 1990), and in investing more in building positive
relationships and helping networks among neighbors (Coleman, 1988; Coleman, 1990).
Ellen and Turner (1997) investigated how neighborhood conditions impact families and
children through a literature review and census tracts. Although the results showed that
neighborhoods mattered, they suggested using both qualitative and quantitative methods
to capture the true meaning of life experiences and how neighborhoods influence
people's lives. Greenberg (1999) collected 309 survey responses to study the relationship
between rating neighborhood quality and neighborhood attributes and personality. He
found that associations existed between poor neighborhood quality and crime, vandalism
and physical decay, mistrust of authority, negative emotions, pessimism, and a lack of
control. But he did not address intervention. Should people improve the quality of the
neighborhood to address crime and vandalism, or does taking control bring trust, prevent
physical decay, and thus improve the neighborhood quality?
Within a Habitat context, Baggett (2003) and Giri (2002) explored the religion
aspects and the social capital of Habitat at the organizational level. Hays (2002) studied
qualitatively citizen involvement in community housing as a faith-based expansion of
social capital within nine Habitat affiliates, focusing on volunteers and paid staff. He
found that the created one-on-one linkage between the volunteers and the families
contributed little to the overall neighborhood. Habitat empowered families by giving
them more control over their housing situation and developing building and maintenance
skills. But Habitat failed to promote the collective actions among low-income families to
deal with their community housing problems. Since Hays interviewed only the volunteers
and the paid staff, these findings represented only the perception of the organization, not
how families actually feel about themselves and their neighborhoods. Wells (2000)
examined the relationship between house quality and psychological well-being among
Habitat families. Even though Wells found positive results, she admitted that other
factors might influence the psychological well-being for Habitat families, such as sweat
equity participation, homeownership, and neighborhood characteristics.
Based on generalized social exchange theory and the social resource development
in Habitat, it is assumed that Habitat neighborhoods-instead of scattered Habitat
houses-better support the resources built through sweat equity. In the AREA study
(Mitchell & Warren, 1998), families reported feeling safe by living close to other partner
families. The finding indicated that the trust to other partner families persisted after
families move into their homes. Geographical proximity may facilitate supportive
interactions among Habitat families who already have built trust with each other.
Noticing that Habitat homeowners are families with low and very low incomes, would
the geographical proximity of Habitat homes compared to houses in scattered sites have a
negative impact as well as a positive impact?
Habitat houses are built on available lands, acquired at a low price. Usually the lots
are disconnected so Habitat houses are separated from each other. When Habitat acquires
a bigger lot that can accommodate more houses, a Habitat cluster or neighborhood is
formed. According to the AREA study (Mitchell & Warren, 1998), houses are built in
scattered lots "where there are no other Habitat homes on the homeowner's street" (p. IV-
27). Other houses are built in clusters "where the homeowner's block includes other
Habitat households but is not exclusively developed with Habitat homes" or subdivisions
"where the homeowner is surrounded on the street only by homes built by Habitat"
(Mitchell & Warren, 1998, p. IV-27).
"Scattered sites" refers to the locations where there are no other Habitat homes on
the same street, or where a few Habitat houses are on the same street but there are less
than ten Habitat houses in the same block. "Habitat neighborhoods" refers to the
locations where ten or more than ten Habitat houses are clustered, or where Habitat
houses are surrounded only by homes built by Habitat in the same block.
Since Habitat householders are normally single-parent minorities with low and very
low incomes, building a Habitat neighborhood raises questions about segregation.
Although often used in sociology, politics, and social sciences, there is little agreement
about definitions and measures of segregation (Duncan & Duncan, 1955; Massey &
Denton, 1988; White, 1983). Residential segregation considers the racial and ethnic
location patterns in minority groups (Massey & Denton, 1988). The index of dissimilarity
and the minority proportion had been the standard measures of segregation. However,
these methods fail to distinguish in what ways one group differentiates from the other.
Massey and Denton (1988) proposed a multi-dimensional concept for residential
segregation. Based on extensive literature research and James and Taeuber's models
(Carr, 1999), their measures included evenness of segregation, exposure, concentration,
centralization, and clustering. Accordingly, a group of residents "that is highly
centralized, spatially concentrated, unevenly distributed, tightly clustered, and minimally
exposed to majority members is said to be residentially 'segregated'" (Massey & Denton,
1988, p. 283). But these dimensions regard the residents as static numbers and address
observed segregation rather than perceived segregation. These dimensions fail to identify
whether or not the segregation is formed by choice.
The segregation problem symbolizes a battle of controlling resources and power.
With the end of the American Civil War, the Whites, who had dominated almost all
resources, tried to segregate the Blacks in every aspect of life. Personal preference,
income distribution, and class-division were the popular explanations for physical
separation. With the excuse that residential segregation helped to reduce racial conflicts,
landlords and developers provided segregated white communities for higher profits.
Since the Great Depression of the 1930s, subsidized low-income housing in the United
States has been characterized to serve the needs for central business district
redevelopment, industrial mobilization of World War II, and the private housing market
(Coulibaly et al., 1998). The urban renewal and substandard housing clearance programs
resulted in racially and economically segregated residents. As the Blacks gained higher
socioeconomic status, researchers in the 1960s found that the impact of integration on
property value was minimal. This finding undermined the financial rationale for housing
segregation. In the 1980s, declining air quality and increasing noise problems in
residential areas drove higher-income people out of the areas around factories where
segregated working-class districts were built. Implicitly or explicitly, segregation is
assumed as "a manifestation of generalized white prejudice resulting in discrimination
against racial minorities, often mediated through an imperfect market mechanism"
(Coulibaly et al., 1998, p. 1). The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act of
1968 aimed to remedy the inequalities resulting from segregation and racial
discrimination. However, these two acts have had only minor impact, and segregation
remains a serious and enduring fact in the United States. Coulibaly, Green, and James
(1998) stated that racial and income segregation had been "an integral element of the
feral housing policy from its inception" (p. 2).
Integration of race, ethnicity, and income within different groups is assumed to
help in job growth, improve education, develop healthy and adequate housing supply, and
alleviate residential segregation (Frey & Myers, 2002). As a result of a series of lawsuits
against the housing policies by the Chicago Housing Authority and HUD, the first
mobility program-the Gautreaux Program (1967-1998)-was born. It provided financial
and social assistance to relocate segregated minority public housing residents into
middle-income predominantly non-Hispanic white suburb communities. Given the
success of the Gautreaux program, in 1994 HUD funded more Moving to Opportunity
demonstration programs to relocate public housing families to low poverty
neighborhoods. The initial research studies of the Gautreaux program showed that
minority households had positive experiences of improved quality of life. However, the
newly integrated neighborhoods tended to re-segregate (Carr, 1999). In another study of
suburban segregation, Farley (1993) confirmed that white households tended to flee
integrated neighborhoods as the number of minority residents increases. After the Whites
left their old neighborhoods, the integrated neighborhoods became predominantly
minority or segregated. Stuart (2002) also concluded in his study of six metropolitan
areas in Chicago that although efforts to mix minorities with non-Hispanic white
neighbors had some effect in moderating segregation, this integration was only
temporary. Subsidies, mobility programs, Fair Housing access, enhancing city service,
and other programs had only a modest effect on segregation. These improvements were
slight and the pace was slow (Carr, 1999; Denton, 1999).
Instead of trying to eliminate segregation with minimum results, some scholars
(Brophy & Smith, 1997; Fischer, 1975; 1982; Schawrtz & Tajbakhsh, 1996; Suttles,
1972; Ward, LaGory, & Sherman, 1985) explored the benefits of segregation in certain
cases. For instance, segregation by choice may help residents to preserve their traditions
and culture, build self-respect, and provide social networks for a better job (Fischer,
1982). The residents' perspective became important in these segregation studies.
Sabatini, Caceres, and Cerda (2001) suggested incorporating subjective perceptions into
objective measures for segregation. Since she used census data rather than field data, she
could not include subjective perceptions in her model. In a recent study of residential
segregation, Squires, Friedman, and Saidat (2002) collected residents' opinions about
discrimination in housing. He asked the residents' preferences to race within an ideal
neighborhood, but he did not address the perceived segregation by the same minority
residents after living in their concurrent neighborhoods over a period of time. Therefore,
there is a need to address the perception of segregation of minority residents who live in a
If segregated living promotes more benefits than problems, should segregation be
eliminated in every case? Is there a way to fight the negative social pathologies caused by
segregation rather than the form of spatial separation? In deciding whether or not
segregation occurs, which is more important: the observed segregation by figures or
perceived segregation by the residents?
Habitat families live in a segregated condition by definition. They differ only in
levels of segregation. The low-income Habitat families could only afford houses on
available and usually inexpensive lots within or near existing low-income neighborhoods.
All surrounding neighbors probably share similar financial backgrounds, race
composition, and education levels. Because a large number of Habitat families are within
a very-low income category, in a Habitat neighborhood, as compared to scattered sites,
the poverty level is higher and the segregation is assumed greater. Although research
(Mitchell & Warren, 1998) showed that Habitat families who lived in clusters or
subdivisions were more satisfied than families who lived in scattered homes, Habitat
affiliations, HUD city governors, and planners feel the pressure for integration. Some
Habitat affiliates try to mix Habitat families from different low-income levels, even
though the created "mixed-income" neighborhood is still, by definition, economically and
racially segregated to some degree. Since Habitat families participate in the building
process of the neighborhood, perhaps the residents in a racially segregated neighborhood
will not perceive segregation.
By comparing the human and social resources preserved in Habitat neighborhoods
and scattered sites, the results may help Habitat to understand the planning strategies.
These findings may be useful for other low-income housing programs, such as HUD,
USDA Rural Development housing programs, and non-profit programs.
For affordability considerations, the design standards of Habitat houses are set by
Habitat for Humanity International. However, neither the architects nor Habitat decision-
makers are low-income householders. In a study that compared the preferences of
planners, architects, and laypersons, Jeffrey and Reynolds (1999) found that architects
developed different aesthetical criteria from the planners and the public. It is possible that
the mismatch of the physical forms and the user needs exists in a Habitat house design.
Sanoff (1992b) defined participation as the "face-to-face interaction of individuals
who share a number of values important to all, that is to say [,] a purpose for them being
together" (p. 55). Reis (2000) described design participation as "user control over aspects
of mass housing design, either in the design process or after construction" (p. 1). Design
participation may not only provide satisfying design solutions, but also empower the
users who take control of their lives (Sanoff, 2000).
A participatory design approach engaging the user body in the conceptual design
stage has been advocated by many scholars (Birdsey, McKinney, & Stouffer, 1998;
Hasell & Zhu, 2001; 2003; Sanoff, 1992a; 2000). The public had been viewed as a
passive patient who needed help from the outside "experts." With little local knowledge,
the experts presented the designs to a restricted group of decision-makers (Barrow, 2000).
The World Bank (1995) stated that participation in the design and implementation of
development efforts could enhance these efforts' impact. Becker (1977) related residents'
participation in the development process to a better-maintained physical environment,
greater public spirit, more user satisfaction, and significant changes. Dluhosch (1978)
asserted that habitable space design could be responsive and effective if it included the
user in the design process. Sanoff believes (2000) that "genuine participation occurs only
when people are empowered to control action taken" (p. 9). In a study of user
participation in passive social housing design, McLain-Kark (1986) identified the
positive relationship between design and owner-built participation and housing
satisfaction. However, he oversimplified the measure of participation, failed to identify
participation as a process, and did not explore the meaning of participation to the
residents. In 1994, Finn identified the selection of site, decor, and sometimes designs as
one of many empowering experiences of Habitat homeowners (Finn, 1994). But she did
not address how to improve the physical design. In 2000, Reis (2000) evaluated the
relationship between user participation and satisfaction with mass housing design across
three housing estates in Brazil. The evaluation showed positive evidence for the need of
user participation, and participation in the design process was preferred, as compared to
participation after construction. Since satisfaction with mass housing design may involve
many social and physical factors, such as neighborhood conditions and skills for upkeep,
Reis's study did not provide a holistic view of design participation.
Since Habitat is organized self-help housing, families have only limited control in
the planning and designing stage. They can choose within available lots, options of
layouts, interior and exterior colors, materials, and finishes. These design-related
activities begin before they start to build their own houses. The time spent in design
participation may or may not be counted as sweat equity hours according to individual
Habitat policies. Families' special needs may or may not be addressed if the design does
not satisfy their needs. Empirical evidence is needed to support design participation
within a Habitat context. The quantitative evidence may relate to satisfaction with the
house, satisfaction with design, and satisfaction with design participation. The qualitative
evidence may include users' opinions and suggestions about design of their concurrent
The literature review of sweat equity as participation, human and social resource
development, impact of physical settings, and design participation reveal several themes.
First, these concepts are important and need be defined in context. Second, normative
rather than empirical studies dominate the literature because of the complexity of the
phenomena. Third, no consensus has been reached to measure these concepts. Fourth, the
lack of previous studies that explore how sweat equity influence families' lives in terms
of human and social resource development in a Habitat context requires an in-depth
This research aims to gain a detailed understanding of the sweat equity process,
explore the relationship between sweat equity and human and social resource
developments, compare the impact of sweat equity in two physical settings, and identify
the role of design participation during the sweat equity process. The complexity of the
study, the lack of a prior research model and an existing database, and also an available
resource for a large-scale approach required an in-depth case study. According to Yin
(2003), a case study can incorporate both qualitative and quantitative data collections.
Documentation review and archival analysis help to build a sound research background.
Statistics focus on the questions of quantifiable measures, such as who, where, how
much, how many, and how often. Qualitative methods explore the how and why questions
(Yin, 2003). Using multiple methods in one case study provides a holistic view of sweat
Since the literature shows little consensus of measuring sweat equity, human and
social resources, and design participation, this study needed to incorporate existing scales
or design new instruments for this specific Habitat context. The criterion for choosing or
designing the instruments is whether or not the variables contribute to solving the long-
term house and neighborhood maintenance problems in Habitat.
Habitat uses the number of hours that family members contribute to their houses as
well as other families' houses to record sweat equity. However, no one tests whether or
not the measure is appropriate. Although sweat equity is regarded as a part of the
monetary down payment, the AREA study (Mitchell & Warren, 1998) found that the
most common benefit to the families was not the financial savings but the pride and
stability, and about 20% of the families felt inadequately prepared for homeownership.
Since the AREA study did not specify what families did during sweat equity specifically,
it could not answer the question of how to get families better prepared, or why pride and
stability are more important than financial savings. When Finn (1994) identified sweat
equity as an empowerment process in Habitat, she did not specify which activities
empowered the homeowners. Without empirical measures, both studies could not build
the relationship between sweat equity and a sense of homeownership or empowerment.
In this study, sweat equity is measured by the number of types of individual
activities, the meaning of sweat equity to the families, and the number of hours. The list
of activities (see Appendix 1) is developed from background research and personal
communications with local Habitat affiliates. The meaning of sweat equity is measured
by two questions concerning participants' feelings about the sweat equity on other
families' houses and on their own houses.
In the literature, human resources are defined as knowledge, skills, health, time,
interest, and commitment (Torjman, 1998). Skill levels, academic learning (OECD,
2001), skill training (Torjman, 1998), and the rates of return on investments (Barro, 2001;
Hanushek & Kimko, 2000) are the common measures of human resources. But these
measures do not fit in a Habitat context. For families with limited resources, these life
skills or academic or job training may not contribute directly to one's house and
neighborhood. Finn (1994) found that the house maintenance and management process
was not empowering because some families believed that Habitat should be responsible
for those problems, but Habitat disagreed. Without quantitative analyses and comparison,
Finn addressed only the responsibility issues and failed to look at other possibilities for
home maintenance problems: families lack the skills, confidence, and resources for home
maintenance so if the house needs repair, they could rely only on Habitat.
The other challenge in measuring human resources is to develop the appropriate
scales to measure the intangible psychological feelings. Self-esteem is one of the
common measures of psychological feelings in human resources. Self-esteem is defined
as how one values, approves, and likes oneself (Blascovich & Tomaka, 1991). Self-
esteem is believed to explain socioeconomic and psychological and social phenomena,
such as poverty, well-being, stress, locus of control, depression, and competitiveness
(Lever, Pinol, & Uralde, 2005; Twenge & Campbell, 2002). More than 200 scales have
been developed to measure self-esteem. The Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (Rosenberg,
1965) and the Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory (Coopersmith, 1981) are two of the
most popular scales. But the scales were developed to study the self-esteem of children.
They do not fit the profile of the low-income residents. Scheff and Fearon (2004)
reviewed the development of self-esteem measurements and found that although studies
about self-esteem tended to report positive results, these results were not consistent.
Because of its interrelationship with race, gender, ethnicity, social connections, and
socioeconomic status, the instrument design seldom met the requirement for each context
(Scheff & Fearson, 2004). Sometimes self-esteem was used to measure social resources.
Form example, Cohen, Mermelstein, Kamarck, and Hoberman (1985) included self-
esteem to measure social support, emphasizing the availability of a positive comparison
when one compares him or herself with others.
Place attachment, or the person-place relationship, is believed to have a positive
impact on one's socio-physical environment. Measures of home-based attachment
include positive evaluations, rootedness, safety, a sense of belonging, activities, and
identity (Harris, Brown, & Werner, 1996). Harris, Brown, and Werner (1996) examined
the relationship between privacy and place attachment to rental housing. They measured
attachment, satisfaction with the building, and feelings of rootedness. They also
addressed why people were attached, such as safety, connection, and identity. Although
they found positive results in the study, they suggested that ties to neighborhood,
aesthetic and functional characteristics of the setting, past experiences with the place
should be incorporated for a better understanding of the dynamic phenomenon of place
attachment. Vaske and Kobrin (2001) found that place attachment was related to
environmental responsible behaviors among students working in a natural-resource
program. They measured place attachment by place dependence and place identity, such
as satisfaction, importance of the place, and personal connection. However these
measures were chosen to examine connections with environment-friendly behaviors in a
natural park, not a place that people own and live everyday. Wells (2000) is conducting a
Habitat study that examines the well-being of the Habitat residents in relation to physical
housing conditions. She included place attachment, contentment, and privacy as the
environment scale. Since attachment is not her major research question, Wells uses a
simple 5-item scale to measure both home attachment and neighborhood attachment.
Other related measures about human resources include, but are not limited to, pride,
confidence, self-responsibility, and satisfaction. These intangible indicators are closely
related to how one feels about the self, the skills, or the physical house one possesses.
These may be incorporated in other scales such as sense of community or place
attachment, or defined differently in the setting (Rossi & Weber, 1996).
Social resources refer to the social connections among individuals, such as social
networks, the norms of reciprocity, and trustworthiness (Putnam, 2000). Different
disciplines have different emphases on social resources. The literature has shown that
consensus has not been reached on the universal scales to measure social resources, and
the studies of social capital often concentrate on organizations rather than individuals.
The psychological aspects of social resources were explored through various
emphases, including sense of community (Chavis & Wandersman, 1990; McMillan,
1996; Perkins et al., 1990); attachment (Riger, 2001; Wells, 2000; Woolerver, 1992);
neighborhood cohesion (Buckner, 1988); and trust (Fukuyama, 1995; Narayan &
Pritchett, 1997). McMillan and Chavis' (1986) Sense of Community Index (SCI)
instrument is often preferred to as a basic measure of a community. It measures
membership, influence, integration and fulfillment of needs, and shared emotional
connection. Other researchers often adapt their instruments from the SCI to measure the
social capital for a certain context.
Social support, the resources provided by other persons, is believed to prevent
individuals from the pathogenic effects of stress (Cohen et al., 1985). Cohen and his
colleagues developed the Interpersonal Support Evaluation List (ISEL) to measure
tangible support, appraisal support (trust), self-esteem support, and belonging support.
The appraisal support or trust in the ISEL can be adapted in a neighborhood setting by
redefining the setting in the scales. Since they studied stress related support, the tangible
and belonging scales are too general in a neighborhood setting. Ungers and Wandersman
(1983) used a 10-item scale to measure the neighboring activities. Respondents were
asked the social contact and willingness to exchange goods and services with neighbors.
Rather than measuring neighboring activities, Unger and Wandersman's scale measures
social support in a neighborhood. The measures of neighboring activities, however, are
better designed in Skjaeveland and Garling's (1997) Multidimensional Measure of
Neighboring in an attempt to examine the effects of interactional space on neighboring.
The 14-item scale included the weak social ties (frequent contacts), social support,
attachment, and annoyance.
Pride, neighborhood satisfaction, and safety are also related to how individuals feel
about their neighborhood (Basolo & Strong, 2002; Rohe & Stegman, 1994a). These
indicators should be incorporated into the instruments as well. Reciprocity occurs when
one helps others after receiving help. Habitat families help other families to build houses
and then receive help to build their own. However it is unknown after receiving the help,
whether or not and why they would continue to help in building a Habitat house, or help
neighbors and the neighborhood. In the latter case, reciprocity is reflected in a sense of
obligation to the neighborhood.
Although no study has focused on segregation issues in Habitat, the AREA study
(Mitchell & Warren, 1998) showed that Habitat families in clusters or neighborhoods felt
more satisfied compared to those who lived in scattered sites. This finding contradicts
general beliefs about the negative pathology of segregation. Segregation is usually
measured by Massey and Denton's (1988) dissimilarity index. Using administrative
records or census data, scholars (Abramson, Tobin, & VanderGoot, 1995; Farley,
Fielding, & Krysan, 1997; Van Ryzin & Genn, 1999) usually confirm or compare the
changes of residential segregation level. However there is an emerging need to address
the perception of segregation from the residents' points of view.
The literature has shown that the physical design contributed to neighborhood
development and social activities (Bothwell, Gindroz, & Lang, 1998; Torres-Antonini,
2001). Basolo and Strong (2002) examined the relationship between house conditions and
satisfaction in New Orleans. The result showed that housing conditions and safety-but
not social contact-were important to explain neighborhood satisfaction. On the contrary,
Torress-Antonini (2001) found that social contact was as important as the physical
common house design in co-housing. They both focused on design features and
overlooked whether the residents had the social skills or needed to develop those social
skills that were necessary for social contact. Finn (1994) found that participating in the
design process was empowering to Habitat homeowners but she did not provide measures
of design participation. Design participation needs to be identified at three stages:
planning, exterior design, and interior design in a Habitat context.
The literature provides a pool of instruments that may help to measure sweat
equity, human and social resources, and design participation within a Habitat context.
This case study addresses how and whether or not partner families accumulate social
resources through sweat equity within a Habitat context. According to the research
questions listed in the following section, maintenance and financing skills, self-esteem,
perceptions of skills, satisfaction, attachment to homes, frequency of maintenance, and a
sense of obligation are appropriate for measuring human resource development.
Neighboring, social support, neighborhood involvement, sense of community, trust,
attachment to neighborhood, and segregation seem appropriate for social resource
measurement in this case study. The measures of the perception of segregation and design
participation need be developed according to the specific setting.
Sweat equity as participation or self-help has contributed to solving housing
problems for centuries. However, it was seldom studied as a learning and sharing process.
Habitat defines sweat equity as the number of hours a family contributes, and does not
specify individual activities. The impacts of sweat equity are claimed with normative
statements rather than empirical studies. Design participation is not specified during the
sweat equity process. Unlike HUD's emphasis strictly on the physical environment,
Habitat integrates the concepts of doing, learning, and sharing to solve both physical and
social problems for partner families. The complexity of the sweat equity process and the
variety of resources that families accumulate during sweat equity require an in-depth case
study. Sweat equity is dynamic, multi-dimensional, and context-specific. The instruments
in this study are exclusively selected and designed to measure sweat equity and human
and social resource development in the local Habitat context.
This research responds to a perceived absence in the literature of empirical studies
of sweat equity from Habitat partner families' points of view. Due to the complexity of
the sweat equity process within a Habitat context, a case study will serve as a foundation
to understand sweat equity as a holistic learning-by-doing and sharing process. This
research explores the relationships between sweat equity and human and social resource
development, compares resource maintenance between families in Habitat neighborhoods
versus families in scattered sites, and examines design participation in a Habitat context.
This chapter explains the logic for the research design, introduces the research settings,
presents the implementation of the research processes, defines the instruments as well as
the analytical methods, and recognizes the limitations of this study.
Case Study Paradigm
A case study is "an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon
within its real-life context" (Yin, 2003, p. 13). According to Yin (2003), a case study is
preferred for contemporary phenomena in which the researcher has little control over the
conditions and seeks what, how and why questions for a complete understanding of the
phenomena. The case study inquiry explores yet-to-be-identified indicators, copes with a
huge number of variables, and incorporates multiple sources of evidence. Although
eminent for its power of qualitative analysis, a case study is a research paradigm rather
than a qualitative method for data collection (Berg, 2001). For Yin, a case study
"comprises an all-encompassing method-covering the logic of design, data collection
techniques, and specific approaches to data analysis" (2003, p. 14). Therefore, the case
study methodology allows investigators to "retain the holistic and meaningful
characteristics of real-life events" (Yin, 2003, p. 2).
Habitat for Humanity International is a unique self-help housing administration that
partners with caring people and those who are in need. Local Habitat for Humanity
(Habitat) affiliates develop their own organizational structures to satisfy their respective
community needs. Partner families have different experiences even within the same
affiliate. The scope of the causal links between sweat equity and the outcomes is too
complex for experiments or surveys. The study of Habitat sweat equity and its impact on
families' lives explores what, how, and why questions. For example, what skills do
Habitat families learn during sweat equity? Why do partner families help their neighbors?
How do partner families feel about design participation? The needs for exploring yet-to-
be-identified indicators and analyzing numerous variables require an in-depth case study.
Because of time and resource constraints, a case study was conducted among three
regional Habitat affiliates in northern Florida: Alachua Habitat for Humanity (Alachua
Habitat) in Alachua County, Florida; Habitat for Humanity of Jacksonville (HabiJax) in
Jacksonville, Florida; and Habitat for Humanity for Greater Ocala (Ocala Habitat) in
Ocala, Florida. A pilot study was conducted in the Alachua Habitat in order to
preliminarily explore the sweat equity process and refine the research instruments. A
principal study was carried out in all three affiliates. The three affiliates were
incorporated with Habitat International in the late 1980s or early 1990s, focusing on new
construction. Almost all new construction is in low-income neighborhoods that are in
disrepair. More Habitat houses are planned in scattered sites than those in strictly Habitat
neighborhoods. The majority of partner families are single-parent families (more than
Although the general guidelines are similar, these affiliates have their own
requirements for sweat equity. They differ in the minimum hours, what activities are
included, how families are prepared in training, how they are involved in design
participation, and the strategies for maintenance and community problems.
Sweat equity. Alachua Habitat regards sweat equity as the willingness to be a
partner family (Feather, D., personal communication, May 12, 2003). HabiJax expands
sweat equity as the willingness to help with other families' houses as well as their own
houses, to abide by the HabiJax rules, and to become involved in their neighborhood.
Ocala Habitat (Nimmo, B., personal communication, June 11, 2003) defines sweat equity
as "the physical labor the partner family puts into building of their home to replace the
traditional monetary down payment."
Table 3-1. Distribution of Sweat Equity Hours in Three Habitat Affiliates
Mutual Help Self-help Total Hours
Hours on Public Hours on Other Hours on One's
and Training Families' Houses Own House
Alachua Habitat 50 150 200 400
HabiJax N/A 200 100-300 300-500
Ocala Habitat 150 100 250 500
Table 3-1 shows how sweat equity hours are distributed in the three affiliates.
Alachua Habitat required 100 hours during the early 1990s. Currently, Alachua Habitat
requires 400 sweat equity hours, 150 of which contribute to building other families'
houses and 50 hours to other public activities before they build their own homes. Sweat
equity includes the work a partner family puts on construction, working for the Habitat
office, and training.
HabiJax requests 200 hours on other families' houses and at least 100 hours on
one's own house. The standard 300 hours is the target for families between 30% and 50%
of area median income (AMI). HabiJax is considering more hours for families between
50% and 80% of AMI.1 In turn, the houses are more expensive with better designs. The
additional hours include leadership training, participation in neighborhood organizations,
and leading volunteers. Three hundred hours are required in the surveyed neighborhood.
Ocala Habitat requires a minimum of sweat equity hours of 500. Out of the 500
hours, 100 hours are delegated to community services in other non-profit organizations,
50 hours in the classroom, 100 hours working on someone else's home, and 100 hours on
their own home. Another 150 hours are required on construction work, but they can be
completed either by friends or family members.
Training. In Alachua Habitat, training courses include budget, home maintenance
and repair, and issues about legal homeownership and insurance. These courses are
available on a regular basis. Families must finish these courses before they finish building
their own houses.
HabiJax has similar training content except for one experimental component-
leadership. Families have a chance to learn to be a "leader" in certain fields so that these
families can become special players either on the construction sites or in neighborhood
activities. However, no leadership training was provided in the surveyed neighborhood.
In Ocala Habitat, the weekly provided training includes: concepts of Habitat;
budget; home maintenance and repair; appliance repair; credit improvement; landscaping;
neighboring skills (neighborhood maintenance); mortgage; and closing papers.
1 Habitat provides affordable housing to very low- and low-income families. Their incomes range from
30% to 80% of the area median income.
Design participation. During the early years of partnering with families, designers
in Alachua Habitat worked with families for customized design details. As Habitat
evolved, families retained multiple options in such areas as layout designs, colors, and
finishes for interiors and exteriors, but they seldom could change the structure, size of
rooms, or add any opening. Families can choose the design after completing 200 hours.
When HabiJax families finish at least 100 hours, they can choose their houses from
different floor plans and elevations. Families can pick the colors for carpet, shudders, and
siding from color brochures, and choose either stucco or brick as an exterior finish
material. Usually choices of matching colors are provided by paint companies. Fairway
Oaks was built in a 17-day community blitz.2 Planning and design work were done before
family selection started. The exterior colors were determined by the location of the lot.
In Ocala Habitat, once a family completes 50% of the community service hours and
50% of the classroom hours (a total of 175 hours), the family is assigned a house. Partner
families can choose the color for their siding. The color of shutters and front doors will
complement the siding color, and the color of carpet/vinyl and color of countertop will be
complementary. Families cannot choose among materials or change the layout design.
However, they can influence their landscaping through workshops and choosing different
plants provided by the Master Gardeners program in the county Agriculture Extension
Office. Selecting colors occurs during the 50 classroom hours, or design participation is
counted as sweat equity in Ocala Habitat.
2 A blitz build in Habitat refers to building a group of houses at a concentrated period of time. Volunteers
and families work together everyday until houses are finished. Among the Habitat houses investigated in
this study, only families in HabiJax had a blitz build. Other houses were built only during weekends and the
process took months to finish.
Problems. Finn (1994) found that some home maintenance and repair problems
were caused by volunteers' unprofessional work. Families thought that since they paid
for the house, Habitat was responsible for the quality of their houses. However, Habitat
argued that a house needed regular maintenance and would encounter repair problems
when the house aged, and that Habitat should not be responsible for long-term
maintenance and repair problems.
In this study, some Habitat homeowners asked Habitat affiliates for financial and
technical help in maintenance and repair. Alachua Habitat collects a $20 maintenance
escrow each month. When families have some maintenance or repair problems, they can
use the money for material or professional services. Since a supervisor is assigned to
ensure the quality of the projects, Habitat asserts that there is no complaint about the
quality of those well-constructed houses.
HabiJax usually sends families who request financial assistance to other
organizations. Although maintenance escrows are collected in HabiJax, the response to
the requests for assistance with home maintenance and repair is based on needs. For
example, volunteers and other homeowners respond to those requests submitted by
disabled homeowners and the elderly.
Ocala Habitat does not require a maintenance escrow. Approximately 20% to 25%
of Habitat homeowners ask for assistance with home maintenance and repair. Eight
regular volunteers respond to maintenance and repair needs. Requesting such assistance
often occurs during the first year of homeownership. After living one year in their new
houses, according to Ocala Habitat, most partner families are self-sufficient.
The other challenge Habitat faces is the architectural integrity within the
community. Habitat's limited resources do not permit much variety in floor plans and
elevations. As the number of Habitat houses has increased over years of effort, the
limitation on house styles and concentration of low-income families raised some adverse
comments in the city and some neighborhoods. For example, some city community
leaders and politicians objected to the homogenous low-income population, repetitive
designs, and less diverse architectural styles in HabiJax neighborhoods. Responding to
the challenges, HabiJax is seeking more design styles and to mixing families from 30%
of the area median income (AMI) with families from 80% of the AMI.
Sampling and Data Collection
Different from large-scale surveys or experiments, case studies use in-depth
evidence to explore unidentified indicators and relationships. Sampling is employed for
an unbiased selection of participants rather than statistical generalization. The description
of the sampling methods serves to facilitate future case studies within a similar
This research had two steps: a pilot study and a principal study. Since gender plays
a role in the informal network (Moore, 1990), gender differences were avoided by
interviewing only female householders. Sampling was based on convenience and
volunteerism. The two-step research procedures were similar except that respondents in
the pilot study were interviewed twice (before and during receiving help from others),
and in the principal study respondents were interviewed once.
When the pilot study started in Alachua Habitat in September 2002, 11 eligible
families were working on other families' houses. All 11 families were invited to
participate in the pilot study. A total of eight participants responded to the first wave of
data collection. Since the construction process was slower than the schedule, retaining
participants during the second wave became difficult. Four of the eight respondents
completed the second wave of this study. The pilot study served as the tests for
instruments and the protocol.
The principal study began after the first wave of the pilot study. As of April 2003,
more than 1,000 Habitat families live in HabiJax, 60 families in Alachua Habitat, and 88
families in Ocala Habitat. Since Alachua Habitat is in the process of building its first
Habitat neighborhood, the other two affiliates provided initial contact information for
families living in a neighborhood setting. Alachua Habitat provided contact information
for families living in scattered sites. From the lists of contact information, each family
was assigned a random number generated by the computer. Sorted by the random
numbers, the top 30 families on each list were contacted. If any of the top 30 families
declined to participate, the following name on the random list was contacted.
Once identified through Habitat affiliates, potential respondents were sent an
introductory letter, consent form, and self-administered survey either through mail or in
person. The survey took 10 to 20 minutes to complete. Within two weeks, the researcher
contacted the homeowners by phone and set up the interview time for the willing
respondents. The interviews consisted of close-ended and open-ended questions. With
permission from participants, the interviews were tape-recorded. The consent form and
survey were collected during the interview. Each interview took 30 to 40 minutes. No
compensation was provided for the initial protocol. However, many interviews were
missed because some families would not contact the researcher when they rescheduled.
To solve the problem, the College of Design, Construction and Planning at the University
of Florida sponsored the researcher so that each participant could get up to $20 as
compensation. The compensation increased the response rate. If a participant wanted to
see the report on the study, a brief was provided.
In the principal study, a total of 49 partner families were recruited from May 2003
to November 2004. Participants in neighborhoods were identified through HabiJax and
Ocala Habitat. Twenty-eight responses were collected in these neighborhoods.
Participants in scattered sites were identified through the Alachua Habitat office, and 21
responses were collected in scattered sites.
Operational Definitions and Measures
The operational definitions and measures are organized within a detailed
conceptual framework, as shown in Figure 3-1. Participation or sweat equity is positioned
as the independent variables include: 1) the total number of sweat equity hours; 2) the
number of types of sweat equity activities (training, construction, public activities, and
design participation); and 3) the qualitative measures of sweat equity. The dependent
variables are divided into groups of human resource and social resource indicators,
categorized under two physical settings-scattered sites and Habitat neighborhoods,
respectively. Both human and social resources consist of tangible and intangible
measures. Tangible measures are practical or realistic measures that are usually recorded
with numbers or described with facts. Intangible measures refer to psychological feelings
Total number of sweat
Number of types of
sweat equity activities
* Lecture training
* Learning by doing
o Public activities
Qualitative measures of
* Economic level
* Length of residency
* Marital status
* Maintenance skills Neighboring
* Financing skills Social support
* Frequency of house Neighborhood
* Pride in skills
* Confidence in skills
* Pride in house
* House attachment
* House satisfaction
* Design solution
* Design participation
Frequency of house
* Pride in skills
* Confidence in skills
* Pride in house
* House attachment
* House satisfaction
* Design solution
* Design participation
* Pride in
* Satisfaction with
* Sense of
* Trust in neighbors
* Sense of
* Pride in
* Satisfaction with
* Sense of
* Trust in neighbors
* Sense of
I I Tangible measures
I | Intangible measures
Figure 3-1. Conceptual framework for the doing, learning, and sharing process of sweat
equity within the context of Habitat for Humanity International.
In Figure 3-1, tangible measures are indicated with a solid color, and intangible
measures are indicated with diagonal shading. Human resources refer to the skills,
behaviors, and individuals' perceptions of the self and the house. Social resources refer to
the behaviors in the neighborhood and the perceptions of neighbors and the
neighborhood. The arrows indicate the theoretical relationships between factors that is
being tested in this study. See Appendix A: Survey Instruments and Appendix B:
Interview Questions for detailed measures. Individual operational definitions and
measures are explained along with the review of the research hypotheses.
Hypothesis 1: Sweat equity contributes to human and social resource development.
Sweat Equity. Sweat equity refers to the time and effort in which partner families
invest to collectively build and maintain their houses, as well as human and social
resources. Quantitatively, sweat equity is measured by the number of hours respondents
completed and the number of types of activities in which they become involved. A higher
score indicates a higher level of participation. The activities are grouped into training,
public activities, construction, and design participation. Since design participation is not
counted as sweat equity in every Habitat, design participation will be explored separately.
Training refers to the perception of the training courses. On a 4-point Likert scale,
respondents are asked to rate the organization, depth, and usefulness of training, and their
desire to learn more household repairs. Two open-ended questions are used to explore
what families would like to learn. Public participation is measured by Yes or No to
whether or not families have participated in certain public activities during sweat equity.
Construction participation is measured by Yes or No to whether or not they have
performed certain construction activities and for whom (self or others).
Sweat equity is also qualitatively measured by the meaning of sweat equity: what
Habitat sweat equity affords Habitat families. Four sets of open-ended questions are used
to explore: 1) why families choose to work with Habitat; 2) how they feel about helping
others and self-helping; 3) what the advantages in sweat equity are (See Appendix B:
Interview Questions for detailed measures); and 4) what the drawbacks of sweat equity
are and suggestions for a change.
Human resource development. Human resources refer to the skills and house-
related behaviors and perceptions of the individuals and the house. Human resources
include: house maintenance skills; financing skills; frequency of house maintenance;
pride in skills; confidence in skills; pride in house; house attachment; self-responsibility;
self-esteem; house satisfaction; design solution satisfaction; and design participation
Maintenance skills are the skills that a family needs to keep a house in good
condition by regular maintenance and repair when appropriate. On a 4-point Likert scale,
maintenance skills are measured by the perception of the skill levels. Respondents are
asked to rate 15 statements about how skilled they feel in doing the listed maintenance
and repair tasks. A higher score indicates more maintenance skills.
Financing skills refer to the ability to pay mortgages in time. On a 4-point Likert
scale, respondents are asked to rate two statements about their budgeting and on-time
payment. A higher score indicates stronger financing skills.
House maintenance consists of activities one performs in order to keep a house in
good condition. House maintenance is measured by the frequency of home maintenance
and repair performance during the past six months. A higher score indicates more
frequent house maintenance. Two questions are used to explore whether or not they could
maintain and repair the house by themselves; if not, from whom would they ask for
assistance and why.
Pride in skills refers to the pleasure or satisfaction taken in an achievement. On a 4-
point Likert scale, respondents are asked to rate one statement about their pride in self-
accomplishment. A higher score indicates greater pride in skills.
Confidence in skills refers to one's self-assurance in the ability to maintain a house.
On a 4-point Likert scale, respondents are asked to rate one statement about their
confidence with future home maintenance and repairs. A higher score indicates greater
confidence in skills.
Pride in house refers to the pleasure or satisfaction taken in one's house. On a 4-
point Likert scale, respondents are asked to rate one statement about their pride in the
house. A higher score indicates a greater pride in the house.
House attachment is the emotional tie to one's house. House attachment is
measured by two items in regard to personal connection and a home-like feeling (Wells,
2000). A higher score indicates a stronger attachment to one's house.
Self-responsibility is the attitude one has toward house maintenance and repair. On
a 4-point Likert scale, respondents are asked to rate the statement about their
responsibility for home maintenance and repair. A higher score indicates a stronger self-
responsibility for house maintenance and repair.
Self-esteem refers to how one perceives oneself compared to others (Cohen et al.,
1985). Self-esteem is measured by a 10-item scale, adapted from a subscale of the
Interpersonal Support Evaluation List (ISEL) (Cohen et al., 1985). Cohen, Mermelstein,
Kamarck, and Hoberman used ISEL to measure perceived availability and quality of
potential social support. The 40-item ISEL scale measures: appraisal support (trust);
belonging support (availability of people to share with); tangible support (instrumental
help); and self-esteem support (positive comparison when comparing oneself with
others). In a study of the buffering effect of ISEL on stress, appraisal and self-esteem
significantly contributed to accounted variance independently (Cohen et al., 1985). The
self-esteem and appraisal scales are more suitable to measure support in a neighborhood
than belonging and tangible scales that measure general social support. The ISEL self-
esteem subscale is correlated with the Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale at 0.74.
House satisfaction is the fulfillment of the house toward one's desires or needs. On
a 4-point Likert scale, respondents are asked to rate one statement about satisfaction with
the overall house. A higher score indicates a greater satisfaction with one's house.
Design solution satisfaction refers to the fulfillment of the house design to a
family's desires or needs. The house design includes: interior colors, finishes, and
layouts; exterior colors, finishes, and yard; lot selection; and public space planning.
Regarding each design phase, participants choose Yes, No, or Not know to the question
"Are you satisfied with the current design?" On a 4-point Likert scale, overall design
solution satisfaction is rated on two items: how a respondent is satisfied with their present
house and neighborhood. A higher score indicates greater satisfaction with the design of
Design participation satisfaction refers to the fulfillment of design participation to
satisfy one's desires or needs. On a 4-point Likert scale, participants are asked to rate
their satisfaction with the level of involvement in the design process for their house and
also the satisfaction of selecting color and finishes for their house. A higher score
indicates greater satisfaction with design participation.
Social resource development. Social resources refer to the social behaviors within
the neighborhood and the perceptions of neighbors and the neighborhood. Social
resources include: neighboring; social support; neighborhood involvement; pride in
neighborhood; satisfaction with the neighborhood; safety; neighborhood attachment; a
sense of community; trust in neighbors; reciprocity; a sense of obligation; and
Neighboring refers to the informal daily interactions or social network activities
among residents. In order to better define the concept of a "neighbor" from a resident's
perspective, respondents are first asked how many neighbors they have. Then they are
asked the number of neighbors they greet (Skjaeveland & Garling, 1997), the number of
neighbors they consider close friends (Unger & Wandersman, 1983), the number of
neighbors they visit and the number of times they visit their neighbors (Skjaeveland &
Garling, 1997). Higher numbers indicate more frequent neighboring.
Social support refers to the behavioral supportive system that provides individuals
with socioemotional and material aids when neighbors frequently interact with one
another informally (Unger & Wandersman, 1983). Social support is measured by eight
items. On a 4-point Likert scale, respondents are asked to rate the statements about
borrowing for cooking (Skjaeveland & Garling, 1997), helping with other Habitat houses,
and asking family members rather than neighbors to help with repair problems. Adapted
from Unger's Neighboring Activities, respondents are then asked the number of neighbors
from whom they would seek assistance, such as borrowing tools, watching the house,
helping with house repair, needing a ride (Unger & Wandersman, 1983), and watching
children. Unger's scale has an alpha reliability coefficient of 0.88 and a Spearman-Brown
reliability coefficient of 0.89. A higher score indicates better social support.
Neighborhood involvement refers to the extent to which a Habitat family
participates in activities that contribute to neighborhood building. Respondents are asked
whether or not they are involved in neighborhood associations and neighborhood
activities, such as crime watch or cleanup. A higher score indicates greater involvement
in the neighborhood.
Pride in neighborhood is the pleasure or satisfaction taken into being part of a
neighborhood. On a 4-point Likert scale, respondents are asked to rate the statements
about shame in the neighborhood. A higher score indicates a lower pride in the
Satisfaction with neighborhood refers to the fulfillment or gratification one has
toward her neighborhood. On a 4-point Likert scale, respondents are asked to rate one
statement about satisfaction with the overall neighborhood. A higher score indicates a
lower satisfaction with the neighborhood.
Safety is the feeling of being protected from danger in one's neighborhood. On a 4-
point Likert scale, respondents are asked to rate two statements about feeling safe during
the daytime and nighttime. A higher score indicates a higher sense of safety in the
Neighborhood attachment refers to the emotional ties to one's neighborhood.
Neighborhood attachment is measured by three items in relation to comfort, belonging
(Wells, 2000), and personal contact (Skjaeveland & Garling, 1997). A higher score
indicates a stronger attachment to one's neighborhood.
A sense of community is defined by McMillan and Chavis (1986) as "a feeling that
members have of belonging, a feeling that members matter to one another and to the
group, and a shared faith that members' needs will be met through their commitment to
be together" (p. 9). A sense of community is measured by a 12-item scale, adapted from
McMillan and Chavis' Sense of Community Index (McMillan & Chavis, 1986). The
Sense of Community Index (SCI) measures: membership (belonging), influence
(community cohesiveness), integration and fulfillment of needs (common needs, goals,
and values), and shared emotional connection. The overall reliability of SCI of an adult in
a neighborhood setting was 0.66 (Chipuer & Pretty, 1999). A higher score indicates a
greater sense of community. An open-ended question is used to explore the qualities of a
Trust refers to the "perceived availability of confidants to talk to about one's
difficulties" (Cohen et al., 1985, p. 74). During sweat equity, Habitat families usually
develop trust in Habitat partners in general, and trust in neighbors contributes to the
growth of a neighborhood. The 9-item scale of trust in neighbors is adapted from the
appraisal subscale of the Interpersonal Support Evaluation List (ISEL) (Cohen et al.,
1985). Cohen, Mermelstein, Kamarck, and Hoberman (1985) reported the internal
reliability of ISEL ranged from 0.77 to 0.86 in general, and 0.77 to 0.92 for appraisal.
Respondents are asked to choose True or False to the statements in relation to their trust
in neighbors. A higher score indicates greater trust in one's neighbors.
Reciprocity refers to the dedication to mutual commitment and the ability to help.
On a 4-point Likert scale, respondents are asked to rate one statement about their
willingness to help others to build houses after their own houses were completed. A
higher score indicates greater willingness to help as well as having the skills to help. Four
sets of open-ended questions are used to explore why people do or do not help each other.
These four questions include: 1) why they ask a neighbor for help; 2) whether or not they
can maintain and repair their houses and if not, whom would they ask for assistance and
why; 3) whether or not they would help neighbors and why; and 4) whether or not they
care about receiving help from neighbors first and expect to receive assistance in return
from the same person.
A sense of obligation refers to bonding to one's neighborhood through actions or
the involvement in a neighborhood association. Respondents are asked whether or not
they have a homeowner association in their neighborhoods. If the answer is Yes,
respondents are asked how often the association holds meetings and how often they
attend meetings. A sense of obligation is also explored as to why they would or would
not attend these meetings and their suggestions for the existing or future organization.
Segregation refers to the perception of being segregated for families living in a
place "that is highly centralized, spatially concentrated, unevenly distributed, tightly
clustered, and minimally exposed to majority members" (Massey & Denton, 1988, p.
283). On a 4-point Likert scale, respondents are asked to rate two statements about
perception of economic segregation and racial segregation. A higher score indicates a
stronger feeling of being segregated.
Hypothesis 2: A difference exists in the maintenance of the resource developments in
Habitat neighborhoods versus scattered sites.
Scattered sites refer to locations where no other Habitat homes exist on the same
street, or where few Habitat houses exist on the same street-with less than 10 Habitat
houses on the same block.
Habitat neighborhoods refer to locations where 10 or more Habitat houses are
clustered, or where Habitat houses are surrounded only by homes built by Habitat on the
Hypothesis 3: A relationship exists between users' participation in house design and
the satisfaction with the results of their participation.
Design participation means the extent to which the homeowners participate in the
decision-making during the design process of their own houses. Design participation is
measured by two parts: 1) Yes or No to the question whether or not families have taken
part in design activities for the following eight areas; and 2) the number of sweat equity
hours a respondent completed when she began the design-related processes. The design
activities include: selecting the lot; choosing interior and exterior colors and finishes; and
taking part in the interior layout design, yard design, and public space planning. The
higher total number of the types of design activities with which a family becomes
involved indicates greater design participation. The meaning of design participation is
explored through an open-ended question, "How do you feel about selecting interior
colors and finishes for your house?" Respondents are also asked whether or not they
would like to have more influence over the design of their houses and to specify their
suggestions for both interiors and exteriors.
Due to the complexity of the data, multiple methods were used to analyze data. The
self-administered survey responses were coded, transferred to a computer spreadsheet,
verified for accuracy, and input into statistical models. The open-ended interviews were
transcribed as narratives for content analysis. Since it was a multi-factor study with a
small sample size, the assumption of normal distribution and equal variance within
groups were needed for statistical analysis.
Quantitative data were described by their mean, median, range, and standard
deviation. Crosstab statistics, hierarchical cluster analysis (Dendrogram), and factor
analysis were used to analyze data preliminarily. Controlled by such variables as
education, income, age, and employment, the new generated data were analyzed using the
General Linear Model, Univariate model, Multivariate model, Kendall's correlation, and
analysis of variance (ANOVA). Once interaction effects were found, no individual
effects were explored further. The alpha or level of significance was set at 0.05.
For qualitative data, content analysis is a common analytic method to draw
replicable and valid inferences on the basis of the absence or presence of attributes in
texts for cultural, social, psychological, and behavioral studies (Holsti, 1969;
Krippendorf, 1980; Weber, 1990). Content analysis helps to quantify and analyze the
presence, meanings, and relationships of interview responses within the Habitat context.
It also allows the researcher to cross-validate findings obtained by surveys.
After interview responses were transcribed verbatim, the data frequency counts and
data mining generated the broad categories. Since the interviews were semi-structured,
the responses in relation to psychological feelings were recorded as ordinal scales to
reveal the prominence of the attributes. The identified themes were then examined by
conceptual analysis or relationship analysis for the presence of concepts and the
relationships between the concepts and data obtained from survey. A common coding
frame was devised in order to allow for comparison for responses across questions. The
results of content analysis were reported in tabulation and narratives. Since data were
recorded manually, the researcher recorded the same responses twice over a period of one
Validity and Reliability
Since case studies are context-specific, the criticism of case studies is focused on
the qualities of case studies, including validity, reliability, and difficulties to build a
cause-and-effect relationship and generalize the findings. Compared to secondary data
analysis, survey research, and field experiments, case studies may not build strong cause-
impact correlations and apply generalization laws. But case studies have the advantage to
explore complex phenomena when other methods are not applicable.
The criteria for judging the quality of a case study have different constructs from
quantitative research. For a positivist paradigm, the constructs include: objectivity;
reliability; internal validity (rigor and/or causal relationships); external validity
(generalization); and construct validity (correct operational measures) (Kidder & Judd,
1986; Yin, 2003). Validity tests the degree to which a study assesses accurately the
research concept. The validity of case studies can be improved by using multiple methods
for data collections, such as documents, archival records/protocol analyses, open-ended
interviews, focus group interviews, structured interviews and surveys, field studies, direct
observations, and participant observations (Marshall & Rossman, 1999). Reliability tests
the extent to which an experiment, instrument, or procedure yields the same result over
time. Reliability is also concerned with whether two items measure identical concepts,
the precision between the observers or of the instruments, and the consistency of the
implementation of a rating system. For a naturalistic paradigm, scholars suggested using
credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability to judge qualitative research
(Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Marshall & Rossman, 1999; Merriam, 1985).
This research follows the positivist paradigm because it contains both qualitative
and quantitative methods to collect and analyze data. The methods adopted in this study
were derived from Yin's (2003) suggestions for building the validity and reliability in
case studies: using multiple sources of evidence and multiple cases; following case study
protocol; developing a database; and guiding by theory or logic models.
The validity of this case study was strengthened by multiple sources of information,
including documents, archival records, personal communication with Habitat affiliates,
interviews with residents, and structured surveys. A triangulation was formed in seeking
evidence from a wide range of different, independent sources and by different means. For
a better understanding for participants, these quantitative measures were categorized
under sweat equity, feelings about themselves, their house, their neighbors, and their
neighborhood. The interview questions mainly addressed how families felt about sweat
equity and why they helped their neighbors. Additional sources of data included
newsletters, flyers, training booklets, copies of policy statements, Habitat International
online resources, Habitat World magazine, and observations at the local Habitat Board of
Trustees meeting and construction sites. Based on the learning-by-doing theory and the
generalized social exchange theory, the theoretical framework (see Figure 3-1) helped to
construct the external validity. If replicating the logic in multiple cases is available in the
future, the external validity will be reinforced.
It is possible that a causal factor was not accounted for regarding the relationships
between sweat equity and human and social resource development. The internal validity
was considered by constructing patterns and explanations from the extensive literature
review. With the help from research professionals and Habitat affiliates, a research
protocol was developed and submitted to the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at the
University of Florida. Any changes in the research protocol were reported to the IRB.
The reliability of this study was taken into account in conducting a pilot study to test the
measures and procedures. The pilot study protocol was also approved by IRB. It was
conducted in a local Habitat whose families were in the middle of their sweat equity
hours. Although the responses might be different from those in principal study that
engaged Habitat homeowners, the pilot study showed that the procedures were operative
and families understood the instruments. The pilot study also helped the researcher
control the interview time and enhanced interview skills. Since the pilot study was
successful, the principal study followed similar procedure and instruments with minor
changes appropriate for homeowners rather than potential homeowners.
Limitations of This Study
The limitations of this study reside in the nature of the study and external
constraints imposed by time and resources. Since sweat equity policies in Habitat
affiliates are different from one another and partner families are pre-selected to enter this
program, it is possible that opinions of the participants in this study are different from
those in other affiliates or those who quit the program during the sweat equity process.
The volunteerism sampling strategy may separate the participants who volunteered in this
study and those who did not want to participate. Because of the scale of this case study, it
is unwise to generalize the results to other housing programs. As Yin (2003) indicated,