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Carina Dominguez
Indian Country Today

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is awarding $147 million to tribal communities this year.

The annual funds go towards block grants and 83 will support affordable housing and community development projects – with $95 million going to 24 communities through the Indian Housing Block Grant Competitive Program and $52 million awarded to 59 communities through the Indian Community Development Grant.

HUD made the announcement on Thursday.

“We're very excited to make this announcement,” said Heidi Frechette, Menominee and Brothertown, who is the deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Native American Programs. “We're always excited and encouraged to see investment in Indian Country, especially because there's such great need.”

Frechette says there’s a varying array of projects from new construction of new units to infrastructure projects, to community development. The funds can also be used on rehabilitation projects. “These are geared towards specific projects that the tribes have identified are critical to their communities,” Frechette said.

Some tribes will be able to develop community facilities, carry out public works projects and provide economic development assistance, which is a critical need after many economic development projects were put on the back burner. The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and the Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community were among the tribes that were forced to dip into economic development funds to address immediate needs at the start of the pandemic.

The Citizen Potawatomi Nation will use the $1 million grant to fund the development, expansion and stabilization of microenterprises, while creating and retaining jobs for low and moderate-income Natives. The Cook Inlet Tribal Council will use the $800,000 grant to build a 45,000 square foot facility to provide child care and youth, workforce and economic development programs in Anchorage – a project expected to cost $42 million.

Other projects include the Native Village of Napakiak using an $800,000 grant to build a new power distribution system. The Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin will use its $700,000 to install solar panels on 70 housing units. There are also centers for the house-less communities, multiple Boys & Girls Clubs and rehabilitation projects on the list.

“Every person deserves a fair shot to get ahead—one that includes access to safe, affordable housing and a vibrant community,” said HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge. “That is why we are pleased to make over 80 awards to American Indian and Alaska Native communities across the country so that they can build new housing and solve their most pressing housing and economic challenges. These funds are an important investment in Tribal communities that need it most.”

In January 2017, HUD released a study entitled, “Housing Needs of American Indians and Alaska Natives in Tribal Areas: A Report from the Assessment of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian Housing Needs.”

Among the findings, the study found that housing conditions for Tribal households are substantially worse than other U.S. households, with overcrowding in Tribal areas being especially severe. The study noted that in the 2013-2015 period alone, 68,000 new units would have been necessary to help eliminate overcrowding and replace physically deteriorating units. View the report here.

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