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RHED awards are the keystone to economic development strategy

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WASHINGTON - Tribes and tribal entities have taken down a full 25 percent of the $25 million awarded for fiscal year 2003 under the Rural Housing and Economic Development program of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

More than 20 awards for at least $6.3 million have been made to Indian country in the latest round of RHED funding out of a total of 87, analysis shows.

This continues last year's trend of tribal strength in the awards, when some three dozen tribal groups received $9 million in 2002 RHED money, more than a third of the funding.

RHED, a Clinton Administration program, has persevered despite several attempts by the Bush Administration to zero it out (and it is trying again, for fiscal year 2005).

HUD also announced that because of "funding errors" for 2002, the Fort Belknap Indian Community in Montana will now be awarded $66,782 and the Haliwa Saponi Tribe of North Carolina will get $89,421.

Many established groups, such as the Clinton tribal "One Stop Mortgage" programs, the Lakota Fund, Oti Kaga, and Ho-Chunk CDC earned fiscal year 2003 awards of up to $400,000 for American Indian-related housing and community development efforts.

The 2003 awards will fund a wide variety of projects, ranging from housing and workspace for artisans to a forestry management plan.

RHED awards are "gap" financing, meaning they are intended to supplement other funding. The biggest project, by total amount of financing, is a nine-cluster housing project on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The Oglala Lakota Housing Authority will receive $400,000 "to relieve an extreme housing shortage." The project already has received more than $4.4 million in other funding.

South Dakota was the state with the most Native RHED projects with five. Four Bands Community Fund, Inc., a Native CDFI (community development financial institution), got a $100,000 "capacity-building" grant to help them incubate businesses on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe reserve.

The Lakota Fund, Kyle, another Native CDFI, is getting $150,000 "to plan the development of a community center and economic development program center." Other funding here comes to $45,000.

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Oti Kaga, Inc., the well-known housing developer based in Eagle Butte on the CRST, is getting $400,000 to help fund its continuing Buffalo Lodge home project. Proposed leveraging (other money) here is $166,900.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe Housing Partnership, Pine Ridge, one of two "One Stop Mortgage" programs set up in Indian country by the Clinton Administration, will receive $400,000 for housing counseling, training and the development of a construction support program. It has $425,800 in other funding.

The other "one stop shop," the Navajo Partnership for Housing, St. Michaels, Ariz., will also get $400,000 in this round. The money will go to an existing loan pool which was set up to develop a real estate market on the Navajo by building or buying homes.

Also in Arizona, the International Sonoran Desert Alliance in Ajo has gotten $400,000 to restore a 134,000 square foot school complex and turn it into housing and workspace for artisans. Ajo is adjacent to the Tohono O'odham reservation.

Three Indian projects in California were funded, for a total of $1.2 million. They included the Walking Shield American Indian Society, Tustin, which got $400,000 towards its ongoing project to move surplus military housing onto reservations.

North Fork Community Development Council Inc., North Fork, is getting $400,000 for a project that includes "a low-income housing component for Native Americans." This project has gotten $2.1 million in funds elsewhere. And the Tule River Economic Development Corp., Porterville, received $400,000 for a training center.

On the East Coast, two projects in Maine will benefit American Indians. Four Directions Development Corp., Penobscot, got $400,000 for its loan fund, while Genesis Fund, Darariscotta, is getting a $39,000 capacity building grant.

Other $400,000 grants went to the Chippewa-Cree Housing Authority, Box Elder, Mont., and the Ho-Chunk Community Development Corp., Walthill, Neb. The Ho-Chunk Nation got a separate, capacity-building grant of $126,626.

The Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Suislaw, Coos Bay, will use their $150,000 grant for a forest management plan for lands being returned to the tribe.

According to HUD, "This is the keystone to the tribal economic development strategy, and must be created in a systematic, logical and inclusive fashion. This plan should also protect and enhance habitat, and develop recreation and ecotourism options."