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Homeownership Program for NM Pueblo

PUEBLO OF ISLETA, N.M. - In a matter of months, Lorencita Lente and her sons will be living in a new three-bedroom home on Sagebrush Street and Sunset Loop here, with a sweeping view of the Sonoran Desert and the Manzano Mountains.

Lente, a health care worker and mother of five, recently saw the ground broken for her new home in the Sunset Hills subdivision of the pueblo in a windswept ceremony that kicked off National Homeownership Week in New Mexico.

Gathered at the site of the home, to be built by Dunlap Construction with a target completion date of this fall, were tribal officials and representatives of the many federal and private entities that have come together to finance this first of 50 planned single-family houses for low- and very-low-income tribal members.

These included Alvino Lucero, governor of the pueblo just south of Albuquerque, who noted that the groundbreaking had been "a long time coming" and the people of the pueblo have been "very patient" waiting for the project to get off the ground. It is the first large-scale homeownership effort on any of the New Mexico reservations.

Ben Baca, executive director of the Pueblo of Isleta Housing Authority, remarked that he had never seen the kind of cooperation that existed on this project, which will provide a total of more than $4 million for about 10 scattered-site homes and a new subdivision of 40 more.

Doris Koo, senior vice president of the Enterprise Foundation, which spearheaded the complicated financing, noted her non-profit arranged $20 million for 170 homes on six of the 19 New Mexico pueblos.

Jim Stretz, director of the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority, which guarantees some project construction outlays, said "to see a family have a home of their own is our job."

Criss Murdoch, senior vice president of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas, noted his institution is providing $400,000 in downpayment assistance for the homeowners, and that Wells Fargo Home Mortgage sponsored the project for the home loan bank's Affordable Housing Program.

Roberto Salazar, state director of the Rural Development arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, congratulated Eric Schmieder for his Rural Development efforts in getting the project up and running. He said he "can't think of a better event to start off homeownership week."

Kristine Jacobus, representing New Mexico Sen. Jeff Bingaman, said the effort "demonstrates the complexity of building new homes on tribal lands." Her remarks were echoed by Paul Jurkowski of the Office of Native American Programs of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, who said it was a "difficult thing" to make mortgages on trust land.

Jurkowski added "the (federal) government must make sure there is no way the tribe can lose its trust land through mortgages."

The Bank of Albuquerque will be extending the mortgage financing to pueblo members, using Jurkowski's HUD 184 guaranteed loan program. The NMMFA will participate and the RD section 502 program is offering below-market rate second mortgages.

The tribe pitched in $900,000 in construction money, and $700,000 from its Indian Housing Block Grant. HUD's Rural Housing and Economic Development program provided $145,000 in financing, while $500,000 in construction money is being funded through Wells Fargo and private sources.