Community Development Success Story:  Lower Sioux Indian Community 

“MHP helped Lower Sioux’s Planning & Grants Department identify a new funder for an upcoming rental construction project. They then sat down with us to teach us how to complete the intensive 15-year feasibility projections and they reviewed our proposal draft. “In the end, we were awarded two grants to build 10 new rental homes at Lower Sioux. We simply couldn’t have done it without MHP’s guidance.” 

Nora Murphy, Tribal Planner and Grant Writer for the Lower Sioux Indian Community.

The Lower Sioux Indian Community (LSIC) has a very limited land base (1,743 acres held in federal trust) and a growing population. While housing of all types is needed, planning for the future has been challenging due to limited information on the existing housing stock, housing records that are outdated or incomplete, and the lack of a formal land development plan in place to guide future housing development. 

The Tribe has 1,124 enrolled members, 85% of whom live on the reservation and/or within the federally designated 10-mile service area that spans three rural counties in Minnesota (Redwood, Renville, and Brown). While the surrounding rural areas are experiencing significant decreases in population, the Lower Sioux’s Enrollment Department reports that the Tribe has seen its population rise 70% since 2000. Just over one-third are young people under 18 years, and 10% are 60 years or older. According to a community survey, 86% of the community state they would like to see their children and grandchildren continue to live on the reservation or in the service area. 

Due to multiple complications beginning in the 1990s, the Lower Sioux Housing Authority identified a persistent challenge to completing the homeownership process for Tribal applicants due to incomplete land and title records. This limits not only the capacity for new homeowners today but also the ability of the Tribe to assign land use for future housing development.

While new procedures have been adopted by the Tribe to better track transactions, there remains an estimated 75% of families and homeowners (116) with incomplete land and title files.

“With our current crew, this was the first housing project we put together.  Having MHP’s guidance and knowledge of the process saved us time and potential mistakes.  It was nice to have MHP on our side during a process that was unfamiliar and at times intensive.”

Larry Swann, Housing Director, Lower Sioux Indian Community 

To address the three challenges of lack of housing, incomplete land use and title records, and the need for additional sustainable Tribal revenue streams, MHP began providing on-site and remote technical assistance to LSIC Housing Authority’s and other department staff in 2019. Accomplishments of the project include:

  • A needs assessment outlining the priority needs of LISC and surrounding community.
  • Successfully securing funding for infrastructure, new construction, and rehab (including the creation of an emergency rehab loan program for Tribal members). LSIC’s first-ever application to the Federal Home Loan Bank for construction subsidy for 8 elder units and 2 single-family homes was funded, as was their application to HUD’s competitive IHBG grant application.
  • Creating site and housing design standards; the final design documents have been completed by architects and engineers for the housing units.
  • Creating a strategy of utilizing the local production of hemp in a closed-loop system to employ local/regional people in the farming of hemp, production of hemp hurd/hempcrete, and the installation of the products into housing units.
  • Completing a feasibility report and business plan (aided by funding from MHP’s Rural Capacity Building program). The preliminary feasibility study/report was used to apply and secure $1.5 million in State EDA funds through the State of Minnesota.

Throughout the work, MHP participated as an advisor, supporter, and development team participant, providing the necessary technical assistance to get 10 houses funded!

Does your region or community need help adding affordable housing to your area?