In recognition of June as National Homeownership Month, the South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition hosted a virtual celebration where nearly 40 stakeholders from national, state, and tribal levels gathered to share their successes in creating homeownership opportunities for Native American families. The Coalition is also supporting several member organizations as they host local homeownership celebrations throughout the state by providing small housewarming gifts for approximately 100 Native American homeowners.

During the virtual celebration, the Coalition announced they have hired Elias Mendoza (Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe) as the Program Director. This is a major step in the Coalition’s journey to become an independent nonprofit organization. As the Coalition’s first full-time staff person, Mendoza will guide the organizational development process and interface with the Coalition’s working committees.

“I am thrilled to be a part of the South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition and look forward to working with other passionate people across the state to create a clear path to homeownership for our Native families,” says Mendoza.

Also during the event, the Coalition revealed new data showing tremendous growth in Native American homeownership in 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. From 2019 to 2020, Coalition member organizations reported a 126% increase in home loan volume as well as an 80% increase in the number of new homeowners. Nearly all loans closed (94%) were on Indian reservations. There was also an upward trend in funding support for Native organizations from the South Dakota Housing Development Authority’s Homeownership Education Resource Organization (HERO) program. A copy of the full data report can be viewed here.

“The growth in Native American homeownership demonstrates just how hard our partners and practitioners are working in Native communities. We have accomplishments on so many levels to celebrate,” says Tawney Brunsch, Executive Director of Lakota Funds, which serves as the fiscal agent for the Coalition.

Several recent developments are creating a favorable outlook on the policy horizon for Native American homeownership, which will support further growth in this sector. The U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on Housing held their first hearing of the year on “Housing for Native Americans: Review of Federal Programs, Barriers, and Opportunities” where Eric Shepherd, Executive Director of Sisseton Wahpeton Housing Authority, and also Coalition member, testified. This was the first time the Senate Housing Subcommittee held a hearing on Indian housing issues in over a decade! In addition, the hearing illuminated the strong, bi-partisanship collaboration between Chairman Tina Smith (D-MN) and Ranking Minority Member Mike Rounds (R-SD). Furthermore, the Coalition is participating in the South Dakota Legislature’s 2021 Interim Study on Workforce Housing Needs to examine challenges and opportunities in housing for low- and moderate-income individuals and families throughout the state.

“It is great to see Native American representation in these policy discussions. We’re moving in the right direction to create an inclusive economy,” says Mendoza.