Please share your input about the Coalition!

We are seeking feedback from all stakeholders about how valuable the Coalition is to you and your organization.  Please click on the link below to complete a brief survey by Friday, September 1, 2017.

Chance for FREE Conference Registration!

All survey respondents who complete the survey by 5 pm MT on September 1 will be entered into a drawing to win a free registration to the annual South Dakota Housing Conference on September 11 – 13, 2017.  A $200 value!

Thank you for sharing your perspective!  We will share results at the Coalition’s planning meeting on September 11, 2017 in Pierre.

Take Survey

Building a Foundation for Homeownership in Indian Country

While homeownership in general has been on a decline across the United States, it is increasing on reservations in South Dakota. More tribes are recognizing the capacity for homeownership to build individual and community wealth, wellness, and stability, thanks in large part to individuals from tribal communities who have become strong homeownership advocates.  Homeownership advocates Sharon Vogel and JC Crawford, for example have both worked tirelessly in their respective communities to tackle the unique obstacles related to becoming a homeowner on their reservations, and others are taking notice.

Government policies that dismantled traditional ways of living in tribal communities have created a housing system that largely keeps people in a system of life-long renting, preventing families from building their personal equity and assets. As tribal communities begin to revitalize and empower themselves economically, government prescribed housing options are continuing to fall short of what many tribal housing authorities see as necessary to adequately serve their communities. Families of various income levels often compete for the same housing since a limited housing stock is available.

“The thing about housing on reservations is we focus so much on low income housing, which is necessary” says Elsie Meeks, former USDA – Rural Development State Director in South Dakota.  “But we’ve also filled up a lot of houses that could have gone to low income families with people that could afford to buy homes and benefit from homeownership.”

Sharon Vogel, Executive Director of the Cheyenne River Housing Authority, sees homeownership as a strategic tool for strengthening tribal communities. Her work helps families have a comprehensive understanding of the complex process of Native homeownership and their options in accomplishing homeownership. “There are far reaching impacts of homeownership that go beyond financial benefits,” says Vogel. “Homeownership really puts families in control. People can decide everything from the location of their home to the design of it, making sure the home meets their family’s needs. Research shows that children who grow up in a family home that is owned have better outcomes in school.”

On the Sisseton Wahpeton reservation in South Dakota, Housing Authority Executive Director and homeownership advocate James “JC” Crawford also works to co-create a more successful housing system for his tribe. For instance, to address the issue of banks that were hesitant to lend in Native communities, Sisseton Wahpeton created a “risk pool” that would enable the tribe to purchase any home potentially in foreclosure, and resell the home to another tribal member.  By thinking ahead, JC helped put lenders at ease and helped ensure that potential homeowners have the opportunity to build their future through homeownership.

“In Indian Country the nature of things is that ‘homeownership isn’t for us’ is a common mentality,” says Crawford, “but I think when we are looking at how we create self-sufficiency in our tribes, we are using our sovereignty to move out of the cycle of renting and into building our equity through homeownership.”

Traveling a Path to Self-Sufficiency

January Mathis Works Toward Homeownership

After a nearly five-year journey, January Mathis, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, will soon be moving into a home she can call her own. January’s home is currently one of seven under construction in Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation’s regenerative community just outside of Porcupine, South Dakota, on the Pine Ridge Reservation. When complete, the community will feature 21 energy efficient homes and meet critical housing needs for local families.

With an estimated 4,000 additional units needed to provide adequate housing for the families on the Pine Ridge Reservation, the development will only slightly alleviate the housing shortage on the Reservation. However, nonprofit organizations like Thunder Valley and Lakota Funds are key players in creating models and providing solutions.

Both organizations are active participants in the South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition, and are just a few of the many stakeholders that are forming collaborative partnerships to increase homeownership opportunities for Native Americans throughout the state. In January’s case, both Lakota Funds and Thunder Valley are providing critical pieces of the puzzle to make homeownership possible.

January began her homeownership journey in 2012 when she started working with Lakota Funds. She started out by utilizing a Credit Builder Loan to pay off debt and improve her credit score.  During this time, she completed various trainings offered by Lakota Funds and built her financial skills so she could successfully create and stick to a budget and responsibly use credit.

In the summer of 2015, January enrolled in Lakota Funds’ Individual Development Account (IDA) program to start saving for a down payment on a home. She began making regular deposits into her savings account at the Lakota Federal Credit Union. For every dollar she deposited, Lakota Funds provided a $3 match. While she was saving, January completed a homeownership preparedness course offered by Thunder Valley. Thunder Valley also helped her through the USDA home loan application process.

By the end of 2016, January had deposited $1,440 into her IDA, and Lakota Funds provided a match of $4,320. When she signed the papers for her new home, January was able to put $5,760 down!

Due to limited options, January currently lives in low-income rental housing in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, about an hour’s drive away from her place of employment—the Pine Ridge Area Chamber of Commerce in Kyle. She is excited that her new home will only be a 10-15 minute drive to work. But homeownership means more to her than that.

“When I think of my own home, the first thing I think of is freedom,” she says. It also means stability, she adds. January explains that she moved quite a bit when her kids were younger, but this home will always be “a place for my kids to call their own.”