Approximately 100 federal and state agencies, tribal entities, policy makers, lenders, tribal enterprises, and nonprofit organizations gathered at Sisseton Wahpeton College to discuss homeownership as a solution to the long-standing housing shortages that Indian reservations face. While homeownership in mainstream America has become a greater challenge following the mortgage crisis in 2008, it has always been perceived as an elusive dream for those that reside on Indian reservations.

During her video address in the welcoming remarks of the event, Senator Heidi Hietkamp acknowledged these challenges and commended the Coalition for its work.

Although achieving homeownership on a reservation is a complex puzzle, it is not impossible. Groups like the South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition that facilitated the Sisseton convening are working to put the pieces together. The meeting focused on the successful homeownership efforts of T Yamni Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate and provided models for other reservation communities to follow.

T Yamni regularly works with over 20 partner organizations to help make homeownership possible for tribal members. The organization is considered a leader in the Native homeownership field, and has help many tribal members navigate the path toward homeownership. As part of the convening, attendees toured the recently completed Long Hollow subdivision that is comprised of approximately 10 single-family homes.

Convening attendees engaged in dynamic and solution-oriented dialogue on potential ways to remove barriers to homeownership. Solutions discussed included:

  • Risk Mitigation Partnership: To encourage more lending and investment from financial institutions, a pool of funds would be created by the tribe. Funds would be used to purchase a home in the event that it should go into foreclosure. This would essentially be a loan guarantee program established by the tribe, and it would also ensure that homes on tribal land stay within tribal membership.
  • Land Bank Inventory: To streamline the lease process, the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate is developing a plan to inventory all trust land on the reservation. This would provide them with the ability to easily identify areas or parcels that would be available as home sites, rather than going through such a long and arduous process for each individual homeowner.