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Showcase for Model Tribal Housing

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Tribes looking for ways to build energy-efficient and culturally relevant housing for their members now have a model for the task. In fact, they have 22 of them.

That’s how many tribal housing projects using sustainable and resource-efficient construction the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Enterprise Community Partners have identified through the Sustainable Construction in Indian Country program. Eight of them were showcased at a recent event in Washington, D.C. that was attended by representatives of several of the tribes involved.

The event was held at the National Museum of the American Indian and featured addresses by Rodger Boyd, Navajo, deputy assistant HUD secretary for Native American programs, Terri Ludwig, president and ceo of Enterprise Community Partners, Annette Bryan, executive director, Puyallup Tribal Housing Authority, and Joe Keeper, executive director, Native Connections.

HUD defines “sustainable construction” as “promoting the design and construction of healthier, more comfortable and more resource-efficient homes.”

An example of sustainable housing construction? The Native Village of Kwinhagak, Alaska, last year built two homes that each used a different energy-efficient design. Members of the Sustainable Construction in Indian Country initiative got to observe these closely, as they made a site visit to Alaska last year and actually helped with the home builds.

The two houses there are called the octagon house and the rectangle house, and they feature two different truss systems. The octagon house features a roof truss and the rectangle house an integrated truss.

At the St. Regis Mohawk tribe, which straddles the borders of New York state and Canada, the tribal housing authority completed construction in 2011 on a “cutting edge” housing development of 20 units, a description at noted.

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“The buildings were built with insulated concrete form (ICF) and heated/cooled with a geothermal. Other energy efficient technologies and strategies include: metal roofs, blown in cellulose insulation, insulated slab foundations, low-e windows, solar tube system domestic hot water, Energy Star appliances, and CFL lighting,” according to a HUD report.

The Navajo Housing Authority, the largest in Indian country, is implementing three projects: “construction of 1,200 housing units, master planning in each of its five districts, and development of a sustainable communities design standard.”

A fourth program highlighted the Nez Perce Housing Authority in Idaho and its desire to build nine duplexes to house 18 low-income families in Lapwai, Idaho. The NPHA has asked the Sustainable Construction project for a consult on how to “improve energy efficiency at the project.”

In Arizona, project members met with Cocopah Indian Housing and Development members to increase the sustainability of its housing stock and “help its tenants save on expensive air conditioning bills.”

In the sixth example given on the website, the Pokagon Band of Indians “began their culture-based development at Dowagiac, Mich. with an integrated cluster design.” In all, 34 homes are planned there.

Two other efforts highlighted at the event were projects at the Muscogee Creek Nation in Oklahoma and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

HUD told ICTMN that it is evaluating a new set of applications for funding for the program. “HUD will be awarding $400,000 in small grants to encourage the use of sustainable construction practices in Native American housing. HUD is currently evaluating the applications and expects to make 4-8 awards in early June.”

The Sustainable Construction in Indian Country program was started “to provide technical assistance to Native American communities to better understand the multiple aspects of sustainable construction, and consider incorporating those elements into new residential construction already planned by the Indian housing authority. Congress provided funds in HUD’s 2010 budget specifically for “a demonstration of sustainable building practices on Native American lands.”