Nationally, there’s a shortage of about 68,000 homes on tribal reservations, and on the Wind River Reservation, both the Northern Arapaho and the Eastern Shoshone tribes are hundreds of homes short. That’s led to severe overcrowding and homelessness there.
But a new building investment program through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act may help.
The Opportunity Zone program gave governors the task of identifying regions with a need for more development investment. 26 governors identified areas in Indian Country, including Wyoming’s Matt Mead. The idea of the program is to encourage investors to take on rural building projects by reducing or deferring their capital gains taxes for up to 10 years. Nancy Pindus, senior fellow with the Urban Institute, said tribes can use the program for all sorts of building projects.
“You can really use it for a wide number of projects.” She said, for example, “housing, infrastructure, business development, health centers, schools.”
And Pindus said the program is flexible, allowing investment in more than one of these projects, as long as they’re located within one of the designated opportunity zones.
“It’s not just getting money to build a house,” she said. “It's, is there a road to the house? Is there electricity to that area? Is there water to that area? And sewage? So there’s many areas that need all that infrastructure development as well as just building homes.”
Pindus encourages tribal housing authorities to study the Opportunity Zone map as they make plans for any building development so they can take advantage of the program.