here is no more crucial building block to a strong community and a promising future than a solid home." With those words, President Bill Clinton opened "Shared Visions: Native American Homeownership and Economic Development Summit," July 8, on the Oglala Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.


President Clinton greets Dorothy Two Bulls and her family in front of their new reservation-built modular home. Photo by Jerry Matthews.
The conference—organized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Oglala Lakota Nation—prominently featured PATH advanced technologies. "Shared Visions," the first Native American housing conference to be held on a reservation, attracted hundreds of tribal representatives, lenders, executives of major corporations, homebuilders, and housing and economic development experts from around the nation.

In his keynote address, the President announced initiatives to streamline relevant federal housing regulations and encourage housing partnerships between tribal housing authorities and federal agencies, lenders, homebuilding industry professionals, and community and faith-based groups.

The President spoke from a stage surrounded by PATH-assembled new and emerging technologies—products and systems that could be incorporated in the future homes to be built on reservations across the country. The technologies that the nationís top tribal housing authorities examined included: lightweight, autoclaved aerated concrete; a condensing gas furnace; a heat recovery ventilator; a "Category 5" home wiring display; insulating concrete forms; a steel framing wall system; straw bale construction; structural insulated panels; and a prototype tornado-resistant "safe room."

Prior to the keynote speech, Oglala Lakota Tribal President Harold D. Salway took President Clinton and other top federal and private-sector officials on a tour of new housing being built under the direction of the HUD-sponsored Oglala Sioux Tribal Partnership for Housing, Inc.

In tackling its housing responsibilities, the Oglala Sioux Tribal Partnership for Housing, under the Shared Visions initiative, will provide Native American communities across the country with the organizational, financial, and legal models to address their affordable housing needs.

With PATH support the Oglala Sioux Tribal Partnership for Housing has incorporated numerous building innovations into its new manufactured and modular housing. By the end of summer 1999, the Oglala Sioux Tribal Partnership will have completed 19 three- and four-bedroom homes and expect by 2000 to have built 50 homes.

The technologies and building processes used in the new homes advance PATH goals of housing durability, energy efficiency, and affordability. They include advanced framing techniques; optimum value engineering; air admittance vents; flexible gas piping; high-performance windows; high-efficiency water heaters; high-efficiency heating and ventilation equipment; ducts inside conditioned space; insulated headers; low-flow plumbing fixtures; low-VOC sealants, adhesives, and paints; prefinished drywall corners; unvented crawl space foundations; and xeriscaping.

The task before Native American housing authorities, such as that of the Oglala Lakota, is great. More than 40 percent of the housing on tribal lands is considered substandard—six times the rate for the rest of the United States. Twenty-one percent of homes on reservations are overcrowded—nearly 10 times the proportion elsewhere.

Although more than 700,000 Native Americans live on tribal lands, fewer than 300 conventional or government-insured mortgages have been issued to date. Lenders are often reluctant to approve mortgages for the purchase of homes on land held in trust by the federal government for tribes. Federal regulations and paperwork slow down and complicate the process of obtaining a home mortgage. Tribal families lack homeownership counseling to help them with financial planning, credit, down payments, and other issues involved in the mortgage process.

Pine Ridgeís housing situation mirrors that of the rest of Native America. The reservation, 120 miles southeast of Rapid City, South Dakota, covers 4,355 square miles. More than 40 percent of the Lakota families live in substandard or overcrowded conditions. The waiting list for affordable housing is 12 years long.

Since it was created last January with a $2-million HUD seed grant, the Oglala Sioux Tribal Partnership for Housing has begun to identify Pine Ridge families ready to buy homes, to provide families with housing counseling, to serve as a liaison between families and lending institutions, to assist families in finding affordable homes for purchase or construction, and to help them locate the best lending packages. The Oglala Sioux Tribal Partnership for Housing is helping to find or provide gap financing for families and, most important, persuade the private sector to address real estate needs, construction development, and financing on the reservation.

Pine Ridge Reservation development costs are high. Infrastructure costs—creating water, sewer, and road systems—are more than $17,000 per home. Building homes or transporting manufactured homes is more expensive because of the remote location. Total development costs are more than $100,000 per home.

To expand affordability, two techniques are being used to reduce interest rates—guarantees and mortgage revenue bonds. However, even with the lower interest rates, given the low incomes of tribal members, the average mortgage a buyer can afford is less than $65,000—nearly $40,000 short of total development costs.

To overcome this obstacle, the Oglala housing authority is working with several additional sources:

  • Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines Affordable Housing Program is providing almost $10,000 per home. The bank makes rural, affordable housing a priority.

  • Rural Development Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is providing almost $10,000 per home.

  • HUDís Rural Housing and Economic Development Program is providing $20,000 per home. The relatively new program provides grants to innovative projects that promote development in distressed rural communities.

  • HUDís Indian Block Grant—the Native American Housing and Self-Determination Act is providing a $2,000 grant to each home-buyer to cover down payment and closing costs.

  • First National Bank of Gordon, a local bank with a long-term relationship with the tribe will provide half of the construction loan at a 7-percent interest rate with no points or fees.

  • The Enterprise Foundation, a national nonprofit financial intermediary that works with nonprofit agencies and Tribal entities to develop affordable housing, is providing the other half of the construction loan at a 6-percent interest rate with no points or fees.

  • First Nations Development Corporation, a nonprofit Native American corporation active in increasing economic activity on Tribal land, has agreed to provide a 20-percent guarantee for financing for those not yet ready for mortgage financing to move into new homes while they improve their credit.

PATH Partners
PATH public-sector partners include the following federal agencies:

  • U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • U.S. Department of Commerce
  • U.S. Department of Defense
  • U.S. Department of Energy
  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • U.S. Department of Labor
  • U.S. Department of Transportation
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency
  • Federal Housing Finance Board
  • National Science Foundation
  • White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

PATH private-sector partners include representatives from the homebuilding industry, insurance and financial companies, retailers, and professional associations. State and local officials committed to facilitating the use of new technologies in housing projects within their jurisdictions also participate in the program.

PATH is administered by HUD. For program information on the PATH initiative or to be added to the PATH mailing list, call the PATH offices at (202) 708-4370.

Visit PATH online at www.pathnet.org.

To request publications, including future issues of PATHways, call (800) 245-2691 or (800) 483-2209 (TDD).

For technical information call HOMEBASE at (800) 898-2842.


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PATHways Vol. 1, Issue 2