The Eastern Shoshone Tribal Housing Authority (ESTHA) will build 24 new homes on the Wind River Reservation this year. That's thanks to a $4.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Indian Housing Block Grant Program.
More than 200 tribes applied for the competitive funding. Initially, the Eastern Shoshone Tribe's proposal was not selected. But in early January, ESTHA Executive Director Charles Washakie got a call from a HUD representative who said some funding had been freed up.
"It's a big project for us. It's 24 more units. So, we're looking forward to getting more housing for our families," Washakie said.
It has been over 20 years since the ESTHA built any new homes. During that time, Washakie said the lack of affordable housing on the reservation has reached a crisis level. According to a survey conducted by his office two years ago, 500 new units would need to be built by 2024 to satisfy the Eastern Shoshone Tribe's growing need for affordable housing.
"So the way I look at it, this first 24 homes is just a start," Washakie said. "We're searching out there for other funding. We're moving ahead."
Eligible families will have the option of signing over tracts of allotted land, or homesites, for the ESTHA to build a home on. Fifteen of the new units will also be constructed on 32 acres east of Trout Creek Village in Fort Washakie. Washakie said the goal is for families to purchase and own those 15 homes, rather than renting.
The ESTHA is in the process of re-scheduling a first-time homebuyer course, which will be required for families interested in applying for those units.
Jake Hill, chairman of the ESTHA's board of directors, said that the new units will help alleviate overcrowding in tribal homes.
"I lived that way as a kid, and I know a lot of other families live that way also. So, it's not a new thing to have overcrowding," Hill said. "But a better living situation can improve a child's success in school and as an adult. So when we look at those successes and how that can impact our tribe, [the grant] is a real big blessing."
In total, the Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded nearly $200 million to 52 tribal housing authorities in this wave of Indian Housing Block Grant Funding. In a video announcement, HUD Secretary Ben Carson said that will pay for the construction of 1,200 homes on tribal lands across 16 states, plus maintenance on existing tribal housing.
"Here at HUD, we are excited for this new opportunity to better serve Native American communities through our government-to-government relationship with the Tribes," Carson said "I look forward to seeing the meaningful work that Tribes will accomplish through this much-needed investment."
The Northern Arapaho Tribe was also a recipient. Northern Arapaho Housing will use its nearly $5 million grant to build 20 three and four-bedroom homes in the Great Plains area of Arapahoe.
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