First-time Funding Granted to Tribes for Homeowner Support
In a historical first, the Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) has committed to addressing the disproportionately wide homeownership gap among Native Americans. They aim to achieve this by offering homeownership assistance grants to five federally-recognized tribes in Oregon. This initiative is a crucial step toward equalizing homeownership opportunities for Native American communities facing a plethora of ongoing and historical homeownership challenges.
Every year, OHCS identifies diverse housing and community entities to be the recipients of these awards. The 2023 grant cycle will see the Burns Paiute Tribe, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Coquille Housing Authority, Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw, and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde benefiting from this progressive initiative.
This allocation of approximately $5 million is a concerted effort to level the playing field for Native American homeowners and those aspiring to own homes. The funds will be utilized for various home development projects, including the purchase and repair of homes.
The funding decision followed an extensive consultation process with tribal representatives. These discussions focused on understanding the unique homeownership needs and challenges faced by their communities. Consequently, OHCS developed two distinct funding streams: one aimed at increasing the availability of affordable housing on tribal lands through home development, and the other intended to enhance non-construction-related homeownership opportunities for Native communities.
Andrea Bell, the Director of OHCS, expressed the organization’s commitment to a continued partnership with the tribes in their efforts to expand homeownership opportunities for tribal citizens in their respective communities. Bell acknowledged the organization’s responsibility and honor in strengthening these relationships and finding improved pathways to housing and homeownership for tribal members.
Among the tribes, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) have laid out an ambitious blueprint for the utilization of the $3 million funding from OHCS. Their Nixyáawii Neighborhood is an upcoming 13-acre housing development situated on CTUIR tribal land. It features 42 “shovel-ready” residential lots available for lease to tribal members.
With the financial boost from OHCS, CTUIR plans to construct 21 new homes in the Nixyáawii Neighborhood, which will be available for purchase to parcel leaseholders. These homes will range from two to three bedrooms. Dave Tovey, the Executive Director of Nixyáawii Community Financial Services, which is supervising the development project, hailed this funding as an unprecedented opportunity for tribal members.
Tovey pointed out that the State of Oregon’s $3 million funding for homeownership development, along with the $300,000 awarded earlier for down payment assistance, represents the state’s genuine support for the Umatilla Reservation community. He noted that while many tribal members aspire to live on the reservation, the scarcity of affordable homes often compels them to settle off-reservation. These funds, he believes, will make the dream of homeownership on the reservation achievable for many.
The Nixyáawii Neighborhood development, strategically located east of Pendleton and south of the Nixyáawii Education Center and Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center, will feature a “safe and walkable” design, providing easy access to CTUIR services and events. The neighborhood’s official opening was marked with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the start of June.
In addition to the Nixyáawii Neighborhood, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde will use the funding to construct six homes. The remaining funds will be distributed among the Burns Paiute Tribe to support four homebuyers, the Coquille Tribe to assist three homebuyers, and the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw to aid 13 homebuyers and homeowners in need of repair funds.