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Enterprise to spur housing for Utah and Idaho tribes

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SALT LAKE CITY ? The Enterprise Foundation, building on previous efforts to develop housing for American Indians on their reservations in New Mexico and South Dakota, has started a similar effort for tribes in Utah and Idaho.

The Columbia, Md.-based non-profit has hired Perry Mathews, Quapaw and Seneca-Cayuga, to direct the operation from here. Mathews is the former associate director of the Utah Division of Indian Affairs.

Hired only about a month ago, Mathews said his mission is to provide technical assistance, facilitate access to finance and create additional housing stock on reservations in the two states.

He estimated there are some 30,000 Indians in Utah, and between 20,000 and 30,000 in Idaho. Utah is home to the Northwest Shoshone, the Northern Ute, the White Mesa community, seven chapters of the Navajo Nation, the San Juan Southern Paiute, the five bands of the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah and two Goshute tribes.

In Idaho Mathews will work with five tribes, the Shoshone-Bannock, Coeur d'Alene, Nez Perce, Kootenai and the Duck Valley Shoshone-Paiutes.

After an initial period of needs assessment, Mathews will address some of the barriers to adequate housing for the tribes, try to implement solutions such as credit counseling and financial literacy and work with lenders receptive to Indian single-family mortgage lending such as Bank One, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Washington Mutual Bank, and Zions Bank.

He will also work with tribes to assess if they have the proper legal codes in place (governing foreclosure and eviction) that lenders require before they will make home loans. The Navajo and Ute tribes already have the right ordinances in place, he said.

Besides private mortgages, he will pursue multifamily projects, using funding sources such as the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, the Rural Housing Service's lending programs, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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Although his efforts are limited to reservations at first, he said he hopes eventually to be able to help urban Indians such as the large population in Salt Lake City.

Mathews will report to Doris Koo, Enterprise's senior vice president. He was recruited by Jay Marcus, who was in charge of Enterprise's efforts on the Pine Ridge reservation of the Oglala Lakota in South Dakota, when Marcus attended a meeting of the Utah Sovereign Lending Task Force Group.

Mathews was a member of. Enterprise who worked with the Oglala Partnership for Housing, one of two "One Stop Shopping" mortgage efforts set up in Indian country by former President Bill Clinton. The other one is on the Navajo reservation.

Mathews, a native of Oklahoma, was director of the Wyoming Indian Affairs Council before taking the Utah division job. While working for the state he concentrated on economic development, housing, and intergovernmental relations. He described the relations between Utah state government and the sovereign Indian nations as "on the whole, good."

He added that the state and the Skull Valley Goshute tribe differed on a controversial proposal to store nuclear waste on that tribe's homelands.

Mathews said he is looking closely at the results Enterprise has achieved in New Mexico, where Deborah Webster leads its Native American initiative.

Enterprise helped facilitate funding of more than 100 units of rental and homeownership housing on New Mexico reservations in just the past couple of years. It achieved the first grant of Low Income Housing Tax Credits for tribal housing in New Mexico, and has been involved in three LIHTC deals.

It also helped put together the New Mexico Tribal Homeownership Coalition, an ad hoc association of 20 or so groups that has worked hard toward overcoming the barriers to lending on tribal homelands in the state.