Coalition Puts Spotlight on Home Ownership in Tribal Communities
The challenges faced by Native communities in providing and maintaining an adequate housing inventory and preparing families for home ownership will be addressed by a new South Dakota statewide coalition. Six of the state’s nine Indian reservations, including six representatives of housing authorities, gathered in July of 2013 to discuss housing issues and needs. In addition to USDA Rural Development, federal stakeholders included the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs and Indian Health Service. About 50 people gathered for a daylong working session to provide critical input on the goals and priorities of a proposed coalition.
“This meeting was a historic first step toward collectively working toward increased home ownership opportunities in Indian country,” said Elsie Meeks, USDA Rural Development State Director. “A coalition could support the partners on the ground; housing authorities; state, federal and tribal governments; all working toward not only home ownership but wealth building within Tribal communities.” An electronic poll revealed the most effective avenues for home ownership are to provide credit counseling and financial and homebuyer education. Many times the local community development financial institution is the integral service provider. “Asset development and financial literacy are necessary tools on the journey to home ownership,” said Lakota Funds Executive Director Tawny Brunsch, the Great Plains Native Asset Building Coalition leader, in support of the coalition.
A home ownership coalition is currently in the planning stage, as key constituents continue to work together, according to Mark Lauseng, the South Dakota Housing Development Authority Executive Director, who hosted and was on the planning committee for the session. Engaging tribal leaders, developing statewide goals, conducting policy advocacy and peer networking and providing a clearinghouse for resources and services are the current priorities statewide.
Lauseng reported that during the 2013 State Housing Conference, held in Pierre November 19 through 20, the founding groups held a training workshop on funding options and a strategic planning session to help determine goals and objectives.