HOLLYWOOD — Housing issues in Indian Country know no boundaries as tribes from coast to coast can attest.
“It’s a desperate need,” said Shelly Tucciarelli, from Oneida Nation of Wisconsin and a consultant with Turtle Clan Development Services LLC. “Every reservation in Indian Country needs housing, whether its elder housing, veterans housing, supportive housing, employer-assisted housing; all types of housing is needed in Indian Country.”
Tucciarelli was among the speakers at the two-day Eastern Woodlands Training & Regional Meeting in late April. Several topics that impact tribal housing and its officials – including federal funding programs, leadership, grant writing, tax credits, human resources and even solar energy – were discussed during training sessions at the Seminole Tribe’s Native Learning Center in Hollywood. Speakers also included Vince Franco, compliance and resource development director for the NLC.
The training provided an opportunity for The Great Lakes Indian Housing Association and United South & Eastern Tribes Housing Committee to meet and hear from HUD’s Eastern Woodlands Office of Native American officials.
“Education is key,” Tucciarelli said. “Getting the information out there – like this program here has been phenomenal with all the programs that let tribes know what programs are available to apply for. Training programs like this are vital.”
Tucciarelli said Native Americans interested in learning about low-income housing tax credits should contact their state housing finance agency.
The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2017 – a bipartisan bill – was introduced in March by U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell and Orrin Hatch. The bill calls for expansion and enhancement of the federal low-income housing tax credit with a goal of creating and preserving hundreds of thousands of affordable homes. The bill has been referred to committee.
According to a report issued by Sen. Cantwell, pivotal factors to affordable housing’s problems include an increase of 9 million renters since 2005, the removal of 13 percent of existing affordable
housing units and stagnant wages.
“The affordable housing crisis is exploding all across the country. We are facing pressures from all sides: demand for rental housing has increased by 21 percent, but we are building units at the lowest rate since the 1970s,” Sen. Cantwell said a press release. “If we do not act to increase the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit – our best way to build new affordable homes – by 2025 over 15 million
Americans could be spending half their income on rent. This is unacceptable.”
A similar bipartisan bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressmen Pat Tiberi and Richard Neal. A press release from Tiberi’s office stated the bill “would give states additional flexibility, make the financing of affordable housing more predictable and streamlined, facilitate housing credit development in challenging markets like rural and Native American communities, increase the housing credit’s ability to serve extremely low-income tenants, and support the preservation of existing affordable housing.”
Affordable housing and lack of housing in some parts of Indian Country was outlined in an opinion piece in The Guardian newspaper, which used this example: “The 11,000 members of the Northern Arapaho in Wyoming, for example, share just 230 reservation homes. A staggering 55 percent are considered homeless because they’re couch surfing. In the Navajo Nation, 18,000 homes or roughly 40 percent of total Navajo housing stock lack electricity or running water.”
Training sessions, such as those at NLC, not only can help provide an environment to discuss current housing issues, but the face-to-face time is also a key component.
“Right now they are in the phase of learning on procurement and human resources to make sure that they’re running successful operations that will make sure they never jeopardize any of their funding,” Cheryl Causley said during a break from the Eastern Woodlands session. Causley is executive director of Housing for the Bay Mills Indian Community in Michigan and chairman of the Great Lakes Indian Housing Association. “And they’re interacting with their overseers of the funding, and you can’t beat that. It’s a lot easier to call and ask for help when you know who the faces are on the other side of the line.”
Thanks to renovations at its Taft Street location, the NLC is able to provide a professional training environment not only for Seminoles but for other tribes, too.
“They’re able to meet the needs of all the tribes in one setting,” Causley said. “The product they are putting forth through this mechanism and this building is invaluable not only to them, but all of Indian Country. They’re not just serving their one tribe, they’re serving – in my area – 31 tribes in all and then the other 30 or so in USET.” .