Low-income tenants get high-quality housing

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A South Dakota housing nonprofit has helped put some extremely low-income
residents of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe into quality rental housing.

Buffalo Lodge Homes, a 26-unit development built on private property within
the tribal reservation's boundaries, is providing three- and four-bedroom
single-family detached houses for people earning, on average, just $4,117
annually.

Nonprofit housing developer Oti Kaga Inc., of Eagle Butte, S.D., used a
complicated financing package from five different funders to make the
project work.

Executive Director Bill Picotte told attendees of the Department of Housing
and Urban Development's National Indian Housing Summit, held in Reno, that
$1.25 million in funding from the U.S. Rural Development Agency was key in
allowing rental subsidies on all of the units.

Tribal members earning just 18.9 percent of the area's median income and an
even lower 8.2 percent of the national median have been able to take
advantage of the spacious, three- and four-bedroom, two-bathroom units,
which feature central air, carpeting, and a washer and dryer. Unit sizes
are 1,151 and 1,282 square feet; and most of the homes are built on 82- by
115-foot lots.

Monthly utility allowances of $171 and $201 also make the units affordable
to those of "extremely, extremely low income," Picotte said. Rents are $476
for a three-bedroom and $539 for a four; the average family size is five
members.

Besides the $1.25 million in Rural Development Sec. 515 funding, the $3.2
million project also got $1.17 million from a low-income housing tax credit
investor, HUD's Rural Housing and Economic Development program ($400,000),
the Affordable Housing Program of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines
($200,000) and the tribal housing authority ($167,000).

Other partners in the project include the South Dakota Housing Development
Authority, Enterprise Social Investment Corp., the Housing Assistance
Council, the IHS and Mercy Housing Loan Fund.

Picotte said he desires to build homes that will appreciate in value and
start a real estate market in his remote area. "I think we should have the
best housing we possibly can," he told the summit.

Oti Kaga has been developing homes on the CRST for the past 10 years, with
a staff of eight and an annual budget of $420,000, Picotte noted. It has
developed more than 110 units of housing - both ownership and rental - in
that time, at a financing of $10.5 million.

Other projects include Elk View Homes, a 10-unit, single-family project;
Falcon Apartments, a 16-unit multi-family development; and Black hawk
Apartments, a 15-unit apartment project.

Picotte acknowledged that his nonprofit might compete in some ways with the
tribal housing authority, but said both entities can be funded through the
same sources and both are making a dent in the same housing need, which
remains large.

His firm has tapped outside investors through the Low Income Housing Tax
Credit program. Enterprise Social Investment Corp., an arm of the
Enterprise Foundation, the equity investor in Buffalo Lodge Homes, has also
provided some 30 down payment assistance loans to tribal members.

Picotte noted that Oti Kaga is the biggest taxpayer in Zielbach County; he
said he hopes to have its Cheyenne River Financial Corp. act as a bank or
mortgage lender in the future.