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California housing organization receives $800,000 for first project

UKIAH, Calif. – It took four tries and seven years, but a Mendocino County, California tribal housing nonprofit has received a certification that will allow it to tap state HOME funds, apparently a first. More importantly, it has been awarded $800,000 for its first project as a Community Housing Development Organization.

United Native Housing Development Corp. is “the first-ever Native American-based CHDO and nonprofit affordable housing development agency in California,” according to Darlene Tooley and Matt Tomas, who wrote an article about the CHDO for Rural Voices, a publication of the Housing Assistance Council.

The $800,000 will go to three single-family homes for low income families at scattered sites in Lake County, Calif. UNHDC will assist three families in obtaining mortgages, as well as site acquisition and development.

“UNHDC will continue to participate with the state in its initial startup years, but will eventually look to participate in other affordable housing programs to address the wide, unmet need for affordable housing in California,” according to the authors.

“Part of UNHDC’s mission to deliver quality affordable housing is to do so in a culturally appropriate way and in a manner that will honor Native American traditions, customs and values,” they wrote.

A CHDO, according to HAC, is “a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to provide quality affordable housing options within the community it serves.” The HOME funds it qualifies for are administered by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which allocates the money to state and local organizations, often the state Housing Finance Agency.

California tribes have been eligible for HUD NAHASDA funds (from the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act) but not for HUD HOME funds administered by the state, Toomey and Tomas say, making a Native CHDO an entity that can expand its funding possibilities.

“The role of UNHDC is not only to recruit prospective first-time homebuyers but also to acquire residential sites, develop the sites, and deliver a new turnkey home to qualified families,” according to the authors.

The money will be used to aid tribal members “regardless of whether they live on tribal lands or not” within the group’s nine-county service area. The authors point out that because of termination and relocation policies carried out in the 1950s, many tribal members no longer live on tribal land.

Being a CHDO will allow UNHDC “to pursue affordable housing developments outside Indian country to those income-eligible Native families that are ineligible for federal housing assistance because they do not reside on tribal lands.”