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Reservation homes ready for Catawbas

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ROCK HILL, S.C. - Catawba Indian Nation recently completed the third phase
of a housing development and is accepting families to occupy those houses
on the reservation.

Funded under the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination
Act of 1996 (NAHASDA), the project was finished in months rather than years
with plans which were not considered possible in the past.

Workers constructed 48 houses and 17 apartments on 88 acres known as Green
Earth with the help of NAHASDA Title VI loan guarantee program. Previously
other homes were built in two schedules and are now occupied by Catawba

Carson Blue of ISWA Development Corporation's board of directors said,
"This consists of 120 units of mixed use: Family, young, old, singles. We
put a lot of people into housing that otherwise would not have one, had it
not been for this program. This was the only way they could get safe and
affordable housing for themselves and their children."

The Energy Star rated homes were built on part of 296 acres which the tribe
purchased and turned into reservation land. The Catawbas have plans for
future development on some of the land remaining.

Richard Rice, executive director, said they had a difficult time getting
started because large Title VI programs did not exist at the time and
federal bureaucracy did not know how to proceed. With the help of President
Clinton, Catawba Indian Nation's project went ahead.

Rice explained that after the 1994 tribal settlement with the federal
government, many Catawbas signed up for housing, and in 1999 and 2000 more
families signed up, making a total of 400 families and individuals needing
homes. Originally 63 homes, now known as "the village," were built on
another piece of land, he said.

"So many people needed housing," Rice said. "They had been waiting since
the settlement agreement. Very little was being done. The tribe had built
63 houses during this time frame, which was good; this was a growing and
learning period.

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"HUD had supplied some grants, which started construction of the village
but there was a large need, and it just wasn't coming. With HUD you get
these small resources. It looked like it was going to take about 20 years
to address everybody."

In response, the tribe armed with Title VI guarantees developed a plan with
a local bank and built the houses in just three years. "That's where we are
now," Rice said. "That takes care of a lot of people on the waiting list."
The tribe also received grants from South Carolina, Indian Health Service,
and HUD to get started.

Rice explained that the houses at the village and Green Earth took care of
people who signed up in 1994. "We are working with the families that
applied in 1999 and 2000. Once we go through this, we'll be able to have
the housing that is needed."

Next, he said, the tribe will concentrate on getting a bridge built across
a creek to tribal land where homes with larger lots are planned. Those one-
and two-acre lots will be offered to Catawbas who want to purchase. Without
income guidelines, a successful Catawba can apply for a bank loan, under
the 184 federal loan guarantee program, and purchase a house there, Rice

Blue explained that the tribe has provided housing for a number of people
who could not be financed by banks to purchase homes. In the past, banks
refused to lend to residents on reservation lands which can not be sold or
used as collateral. Good credit is a requirement, he said, but the tribe
will wait for someone to clean up his credit. Prices of the homes, which
are less than the open market, will remain the same.

Monthly payments at Green Earth are based on yearly income. Blue said, "If
you don't make much money, then you don't pay much rent. It's 20 percent of
the income. You can figure 20 percent of somebody's annual income, and
divide it by 12, and you get the monthly rent."

Catawbas who are accepted for the program have one year to rent. Then each
will have the option to buy or stay as a renter. Buyers undergo training on
buying, upkeep and maintenance. The tribe does the upkeep and maintenance
for renters.

Blue said some families moved from run-down homes and trailers. Some were
transients, living in motels or in their cars. Many have seen the better
ways of life in new homes and have changed, but a few have not, Blue
explained. "The downside of this is we have evictions. It's not what we
want to do but it's in the policy and procedure. It's part of the program,"
he said.