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Housing shortage eased on Standing Rock

FORT YATES, N.D. ? Tax credit investments for housing in Indian country is a complicated matter, but some tribes are making it easier for investors.

The Standing Rock Reservation in North and South Dakota just finalized a rehabilitation program for rental homes on the reservation with the help of tax credits. Standing Rock is one of only four reservations in the country that finances housing through tax credits.

A celebration of the program took place recently at the Fort Yates home of Shannon and Joseph Ramsey. The Ramseys' home was rehabilitated with part of the $2.8 million in investments that will renovate some 40 single-family homes on the reservation in two development phases, one in North Dakota, the other in South Dakota.

"Standing Rock I and Standing Rock II have brought hope to the 40 Native American Families who will receive keys to their new homes," said Charles Murphy, Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. "I'm optimistic that we'll be celebrating the completion of similar developments in the future that will give more Native American families a safe, affordable place to call home."

To be eligible for tax credit funding from investors takes a commitment to housing and also to follow up work on housing planning. The tribe fulfilled these criteria, so Fannie Mae, a government-sponsored entity that assists homebuyers, opened the lines for other investors to make the rehabilitation programs a reality.

The 40 renovated homes were previously uninhabitable, Shirley Dykshoorn, director of Fannie Mae's North Dakota Partnership Office, said.

Through a partnership with the Standing Rock Housing Authority, the Enterprise for Social Investment Corp., North Dakota Housing Finance Agency, Travois Inc., Raymond James Tax Credit Funds, Inc. and Fannie Mae, the funding was made available.

"It takes a lot of people working together to make the tax credit financing available [and] to get the tribe to look at tax credit financing. Tax credit is hard to do. The tribe has to show a good process for management and that there is carry through," Dykshoorn said. "Standing Rock is confident and has a commitment."

The partners in the projects have to put a package together showing a comfort level in management. Standing Rock has the reputation for doing a good job in that area, Dykshoorn said.

"Standing Rock is just one project shy of being the nation's leading housing authority of realizing and utilizing tax credits," said David Bland of Travois Inc., an investor in the project. "I'm very proud to be associated with the Standing Rock Housing Authority, they have the finest staff. This is only the beginning."

North Dakota Governor John Hoeven, a Repbulican, acknowledged the accomplishments of Standing Rock for meeting the reservation's housing needs. He recognized the work and partnership needed to overcome difficulties with financing.

The single-family rental unites have rents of $235 to $245 in South Dakota for two- and three-bedroom homes. In North Dakota the equivalent will be between $170 and $205 for the same units.

The homes range in size from 800 to 975 square feet and are offered to families that earn up to 60 percent of the area median income; for North Dakota residents, that is $25,020 and in South Dakota, $26,880. Three units in each area are available for families that fall below 30 percent of the median income.

Fannie Mae invested $1.8 million in the two projects through the Enterprise Social Investment Corporation. ESIC assists partnership in under-served communities to develop, acquire and finance affordable housing.

This year, through Fannie Mae initiatives, tax credit projects on reservations included two on the Red Lake Reservation in Minnesota for $1.16 million for 19 units and another for $1.8 million for 30 units. The Blackfeet Reservation in Montana has a $2.4-million project for 20 units and on the Nez Perce reservation 30 units were opened for $1.5 million. These are in addition to the Standing Rock projects.

"Thanks for bringing jobs and affordable housing to the reservation and to my family," said Joseph Ramsey.