Mold Money: Federal Funds Available for Cleaning Up Tribal Housing

Sixteen tribes can receive up to $800,000 apiece in federal grants to help them remove and prevent mold in tribal housing.

Sixteen tribes can receive up to $800,000 apiece in federal grants to help them remove and prevent mold in tribal housing caused by floods, poorly built housing, and neglect of proper maintenance. This represents a potentially big increase of funding for this program from last year, when 10 tribes received $4.2 million.

In total, $12.4 million is expected to be awarded, through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Indian Community Development Block Grant (ICDBG) program.

How big a problem is mold in Indian country? Environmental Health Perspectives, a publication of the federal National Institutes of Health, says “Comprehensive statistics are hard to come by, but anecdotal evidence suggests mold infestation is an extensive problem in tribal housing. At the Oglala Sioux Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, the Oglala Lakota Housing Authority has reportedly estimated that 75 percent of homes may be contaminated with mold. A 2010 Montana State University study of 406 homes on reservations throughout the state identified visible mold growing in the bathrooms of more than a third. And the Associated Press reported in 2001 that at least 320 homes in a housing development on North Dakota’s Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation were contaminated with mold, two-thirds of them so severely that they had to be destroyed.”

The EHP article, written by Nate Seltenrich and published in 2012, also said mold is a very big problem for Alaska Native tribes.

The ICDBG mold grant funding was first used in fiscal 2014. A look at the 2014 grantees shows some of the scope of the problem and the efforts by tribes to remediate it, including the Havasupai Tribe in Arizona where mold is a common problem due in part to frequent flooding in low-lying areas of the Grand Canyon.

The Havasupai last year were awarded $400,000 to renovate 10 homes that had evidence of mold. Renovations were set to be done in bathrooms, kitchens and other areas. Moisture resistant boards were envisioned to replace the drywall in bathrooms and kitchen areas, using the tribe’s “force account” crews, according to HUD.

The Blackfeet Nation in Montana has had longstanding problems with mold. Its Housing Authority got a grant of $400,000 to remediate mold on eight units in its tribal housing inventory. “Between 1977 and 1980, 225 homes were built on the reservation with wood foundations. Thirty years later many of these homes have become unlivable due to mold yet they remain occupied due to the housing shortage on the reservation,” said HUD, which noted residents of the remediated units will be required to complete a four hour training course on home maintenance to preclude return of mold.

The Chippewa Cree Housing Authority also was awarded $400,000 to remediate mold in at least 15 homes on the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation. “Mold problems in the tribe’s inventory were worsened by floods in 2010 and 2011,” said HUD. The tribe plans were to focus on moisture control to identify the problem and create a prevention and remediation plan to permanently eliminate mold. It planned to install outdoor drainage systems, install gutters, remove existing water and moisture, and complete any plumbing and roofing repairs needed, the agency said.

Desert tribes are not immune from problems with mold. In New Mexico, The Northern Pueblos Housing Authority got $562,585 to rehabilitate and remediate mold in the Picuris Tribe’s gym. “The project will enable the tribe to continue to use the gyms for dances for the community and teens, planned educational training, exercise programs, health and wellness fairs, community wide workshops, social gatherings and afterschool programs,” HUD noted.

The Pueblo of Jemez, also in New Mexico, was awarded $400,000 to perform mold remediation and prevention on 10 of the adobe homes in its housing stock. Housing inspections have revealed that inadequate ventilation and airflow exists throughout the homes, causing kitchens and bathrooms to be susceptible to mold, HUD stated. Also, defective plumbing has contributed to leaks within walls and under dirt floors, resulting in the proliferation of mold. In completing the project, the housing department was set to employ tribal members of low-to-moderate income spanning at least 12 months.

The other five tribes receiving mold remediation funding for 2014 are the Aroostook Band of Micmac Indians, the Comanche, the Oglala Lakota, the Rosebud, and the Tohono O’odham.

Closing date for applications for the 2015 money is June 22.