The Native Homeownership Is Possible Campaign
In my recent travels, I had the pleasure of attending Pathways Homeownership training, which was hosted by the South Dakota Housing Development Authority. This course was designed to equip affordable housing professionals and those working for tribal housing authorities and CDFIs with the tools to carry the homeownership message back to the grassroots folks who are preparing Native Americans for homeownership, thus increasing the number of homeowners.
What is the difficulty with getting Native Americans in their own homes?
There are quite a few obstacles:
- Overcoming trust land issues is paramount to getting the home building process started.
- Trust land on reservations is difficult to acquire and build on.
- Trust land is land held in trust for Federally recognized tribes and it can be a bureaucratic nightmare.
- Land title searches conducted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs can be very time consuming.
- Nearly all reservations in America are rural.
- There are infrastructure issues getting water to the home site, electricity as well.
- Reservations have few employment opportunities.
Before the The Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996, most housing on tribal lands was developed by HUD. When living in HUD housing the housing authority does all the maintenance on the rental home. There may be a gap in the knowledge a homebuyer has regarding home maintenance. There are also closing costs and other expenses associated with securing a loan for a home. These factors all need to be considered in establishing a homeownership program on a reservation.
The Pathways Home Program is offered as a component to increase the number of Native American home buyers. Currently the Native American Indian Housing Council is offering the Pathways Home training. This course was designed to be Native American-specific to enhance the knowledge of the person working to provide homeownership opportunities to their tribal members.
The weeklong course is split into two sections:
- Key topics associated with affordable housing in Native communities, including sociological, political, cultural and geographical factors that drive housing choices
- Mortgage financing, pre- and post-housing counseling methods, and tools to facilitate interactive classes and individual counseling sessions
Present at this training were organizations that have made great strides in their respective homeownership programs. One of these organizations is Thunder Valley CDC located near Porcupine, South Dakota on the Pine Ridge reservation (Oglala Lakota). They have designed and are developing, with the assistance of an Enterprise Rose Fellow, a community that meets the needs of the residents.
Thunder Valley is not just a physical location or a GPS coordinate. It is much more than that. A place to call your own, with an economic development aspect built in for long term sustainability. I have heard Thunder Valley success stories of single mother’s working towards and attaining homeownership. What an achievement!
Rosebud Economic Development Corporation, located on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota (Sicangu Lakota) is developing the “Keya Wakapala” community. It will create a “community of opportunity” where historically there have been few opportunities.
I am back in Albuquerque. The training is complete, I have a certificate stating I now have acquired this knowledge to pass onto others. I am in my office, peering out my office windows at three dormant volcanoes, debating: Did Native Americans that roamed these lands for thousands of years have these housing issues?
More than likely not.
Natives historically have housed their family, relatives and friends. In my culture, the Lakota, no homelessness existed when we roamed the plains freely. Housing was not an issue. I yearn for the day when aging, dilapidated, unhealthy, reservation HUD housing is just a bad memory.
That day is closer than we know. Join Enterprise in promoting the Native Homeownership is Possible Campaign in partnership with the South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition. The campaign was born out of a desire to encourage and inspire Native Americans to pursue their dreams of homeownership. Watch and share these inspiring stories of Native Homeownership at www.nativehomeownership.com.