Nez Perce, New Mexico pueblos will test homeowner training

LAPWAI, Idaho ? The Nez Perce tribe in Idaho and New Mexico's pueblos will be the sites this fall for a national Native American homebuyer education program tailored specifically to Indian cultures.

The National Congress of American Indians has received a $200,000 grant to help more than 1,000 Indian families learn what is necessary to become first-time homebuyers.

In New Mexico, the program will be run by the Enterprise Foundation, which has been actively involved in homeownership programs on several of the state's pueblos, and the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Agency. Enterprise will take the lead at the Nez Perce site, as well.

Enterprise has been involved in facilitating homeownership programs at the pueblos. Other locations like San Juan, Santo Domingo, Isleta and Sandia might become involved in the pilot. Cochiti and Taos Pueblos are serving on the review committee and apparently will be included as well.

NCAI received $50,000 apiece from the Fannie Mae Foundation, Enterprise, and the Ford Foundation. It received grants of $25,000 apiece from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corp.

The pilots will include both basic materials for potential homebuyers, and a "train the trainer" program for those who will conduct the education.

Course materials will be developed this summer and designed for cultural relevance. Though nationwide in scope, they are meant to be adapted easily to local needs.

The pilot program will also seek feedback from participants on how to improve the materials for a national rollout. A focus group also is planned with housing practitioners who belong to the New Mexico Tribal Homeownership Coalition. The manuals will be published next year.

Instructor workshops will be given by NCAI, and at HUD's Office of Native American Program Housing Summit, NRC's Training Institute, the National American Indian Housing Council's Leadership Council, and the Oweesta conference of First Nations Development Institute of Virginia.

Jacqueline Johnson, executive director of NCAI, has a strong background in housing, including terms as chair of NAIHC and head of HUD ONAP.

First Nations and the Fannie Mae Foundation have collaborated on a general financial literacy course tailored specifically to American Indians. According to NCAI, its materials will use that work but expand the scope to focus on homeownership. NCAI will follow the format and design of the earlier curriculum.

NCAI said that homeownership education is especially important to Indian people, who may have limited knowledge of the nation's financial grid and poor or non-existent credit histories.

NCAI said that while there are several existing Native American homebuyer education courses, none is general enough to serve as a national model. In addition, non-Native courses do not consider traditional Native housing methods and do not explain the intricacies of getting a mortgage on tribal or individual trust land.

Materials will include a participants' workbook, an instructors' workbook, an instructors' toolkit and direct mail promotional materials. Consultant Joanna Donohoe will serve as facilitator of the project.