Two Coalition members, Mazaska Owecaso Otipi Financial (Mazaska) and Lakota Funds, have teamed up to increase homeownership rates for Native American veterans through an innovative new approach that simplifies the path to homeownership. In late February, both organizations were present to support George O’Rourke and Darrel Hernandez as they closed their VA Native American Direct Loans (NADL) and took the final steps toward homeownership on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Colleen Steele, Executive Director of Mazaska, explains the new approach was born out of listening sessions that were hosted by the Coalition. Through the listening sessions, she heard the stories of several Native American veterans and gained a solid understanding of the barriers they face in achieving homeownership.

“Some of the veterans we talked to had been trying to access mortgage products designed specifically for veterans for more than two years, and we realized that Mazaska could make things a lot easier for them,” says Steele.

Through the new model, Mazaska provides a construction loan to the veteran and then helps them refinance with the Veterans Affairs Native American Direct Loan once the home is constructed.  Mazaska also provides homebuyer education and assistance throughout the loan process. Especially during the complex refinance, Mazaska and Lakota Funds work together to provide intensive support to the homebuyer and coordinate with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to keep things moving forward.

George O’Rourke comments on his experience, “The Mazaska program helped make refinancing my home with the Native American Direct Loan a simple quick process. I would like to thank Veterans Affairs for working with Mazaska to create this opportunity for future veterans.”

“It was a long time coming,” says Darrell Hernandez.  “I really appreciate the help I received from Mazaska to get the loan finalized so that my family could move into our new home. I am more committed than ever to work with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to streamline the Native American Direct Loan process so that other Native veterans won’t have to wait so long.”

“Our Native American veterans have sacrificed a lot by serving our country. We are glad to serve them as they pursue their homeownership dreams,” says Steele.