Many indigenous people live in overcrowded, substandard housing conditions. This is largely a result of cascading legal decisions that treat reservation land differently from land on the free market. Tangled regulations and programs have made it hard to improve housing, while the land’s title status has made banks and investors hesitant to support these much-needed improvements.
Our work with Indian Country began nearly thirty years ago in New Mexico. With our Pueblo relatives at Ohkay Owingeh, we created a humble program that started out as a small loan fund for home repairs and upgrades. This was the seed that grew into the first Permanent Supportive Housing project and then to the first LIHTC project on tribal lands, paving the way for other investors to enter the market.
In 2002, we hosted a Tribal Mortgage curriculum to support homeownership throughout the community. This guide was enhanced and became the CICD Mortgage Guide, which was updated in 2016. The Center for Indian Development then used our guide as the basis for a national handbook. Meanwhile, we championed TA on all fronts, focusing on homeownership on Trust Lands and promoting the HUD 184 loan. These efforts created a new frontier for fostering partnerships throughout Indian Country.
Our first permanent supporting housing development on a reservation was created in 2003. The project was called Dream Catcher Homes and was on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota. In addition to housing, the program offered support and reunification of families experiencing homelessness. The project also demonstrated that Housing Credit projects on Native land were possible. Soon after, other intermediaries followed Enterprises' lead, resulting in more affordable units in Indian country.
The Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership, or HEARTH ACT, was created in 2012 to cut through remaining red tape of BIA approval for land leases. Enterprise jumped into action right away, helping tribes navigate the act through trainings across our South Dakota and New Mexico homeownership coalitions.
This October we are launching a Native Advisory Council. This innovative Native-led council will gather a diverse and representational group of voices to help guide our capital, policy and programmatic work in support of Native Tribes. Under the expert guidance of these leaders, we will continue to improve our solutions better and support the needs of the communities we serve.