Native communities to utilize FHLB awards for rehab, homeownership

In 2017, the MHP capacity team supported the submission of seven applications to the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines (FHLB) Affordable Housing Program (AHP) — the highest number of applications ever supported by MHP — to assist community organizations and housing developers in securing critical funds to construct, rehabilitate, or acquire affordable housing. In 2017, FHLB Des Moines awarded more than $45 million in grants through AHP, facilitating the creation or preservation of more than 2,000 units of affordable housing.

Barbara Dolan, Community Development Manager, said she was proud to be part of the process. “It was a very collaborative effort,” Dolan explained. “I felt my role was more of the facilitator, getting information from applicant, transferring it into Federal Home Loan Bank-speak. Kind of a translator.”

Of the seven MHP-supported applications, the projects described below — which serve Native communities in Washington and North Dakota — received funding. “That’s 37 units of affordable housing that’s been preserved or rehabbed,” Dolan said. “And while 37 units may seem to be a drop in the bucket, for these entities, it’s huge.”

Spokane Indian Housing Authority Owner-Occupied Rehab

Navigating the switchbacks on Little Falls Road, the main thoroughfare into the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by beauty. Drivers behold mountains, forest, and the occasional herd of elk, 50 strong. Located near the confluence of the Spokane and Columbia Rivers, the Spokane Indian Reservation is home to several wolf packs, deer, bear, seahawks, and eagles.

According to Tim Horan, Executive Director of the Spokane Indian Housing Authority (SIHA), abundant wildlife and impressive vistas are emblematic of just one aspect of what makes the Spokane Reservation community special. Tribal members are resilient, progressive, and forward-looking, Horan said, and the SIHA is constantly searching for ways to strengthen the community.

This fall, Horan and his colleague, Clyde Abrahamson, Development Manager at SIHA, seized an opportunity to make critical home repairs left unaddressed for two decades due to tight resources. Working with Minnesota Housing Partnership (MHP) staff, SIHA applied for Federal Home Loan Bank (FHLB) Affordable Housing Program (AHP) funds to rehab 12 owner-occupied homes located within the reservation. In late December, SIHA received news that they’d been awarded $480,000.

“In a community that has a significant number of elders and a high percentage of people in poverty, who are low-income, or unemployed, being able to do this kind of work is really critical,” Horan explained. “So we’re pleased that we found a way to address it, and I hope that we can do more.”

The funds will impact at least three homeowners earning 60% of the area median income or less, and up to nine households at or below 80% median income, with priority given to households with special needs. Rehab efforts will primarily target health and safety improvements, including radon mitigation and weatherization.

According to Abrahamson, SIHA’s rehab efforts will have ripple effects that extend beyond the 12 households that participate in the program.

“[Construction work, including rehab] is a significant driver of employment on the reservation,” Abrahamson said. “This is work that will be done by our own construction crew comprised of tribal members that live on the reservation.”

Going forward, Abrahamson and Horan hope to continue to leverage FHLB AHP funding, along with other funding streams, to strengthen housing infrastructure on the Spokane Indian Reservation.

MHP Community Development Manager, Sarah Bellefuil, and Economic Development Manager, Luis Pereira, guided SIHA through the FHLB application process.

“MHP did not play a small part,” Horan said. “What Sarah and Luis did for us was really great, and they helped us get through the entire application process. […] An AHP [application] is not a walk in the park.”

“There was one evening I remember, Sarah and I worked late,” Abrahamson added. “It was actually close to 11 o’clock at night her time before we got all finished up with the grant applications. She was willing to put in the hours even at that time.”

When Abrahamson and Horan found out they’d received $480,000 in FHLB funding, they were elated.

“Clyde and I climbed up on the rooftop and we were both dancing around,” Horan joked. “It’s metaphorical, but that’s what was happening in our hearts.”

Banner Bank, an FHLB member, sponsored SIHA’s application.

Photos above depict accomplishments of the Spokane Indian Reservation including the Tschimakian Pavilion and playground, a solar installation training, and rehabilitation and construction projects. 

Homeownership at Eagle Nest

In the late nineties, the Lakota Funds, a Native CDFI chartered by the Oglala Lakota Nation, blazed new ground by constructing the first Native American, tax credit financed development serving low-income households in the United States. Thirty homes comprise Eagle Nest Housing, located on the Pine Ridge Reservation near Wanblee, South Dakota. Though the development was ultimately intended for homeownership, for nearly two decades, the units have been available for rental only.

But that’s about to change.

This December, Lakota Funds was awarded $375,000 through Federal Home Loan Bank’s (FHLB) Affordable Housing Program (AHP) to provide down payment and rehabilitation assistance for 25 of the 30 Eagle Nest homes.

Barbara Dolan, Community Development Manager at MHP, guided Lakota Funds through the application process, and said this homeownership option will provide new avenues of opportunity for tribal members.

“Owning a home is a means of asset building,” Dolan explained. “It’s more than just the asset of the home itself. You can leverage it for education, for starting a business, and more. Communities that don’t have access to homeownership often struggle to get ahead.”

She said that Lakota Funds will ensure that current renters have the first opportunity to own.

“Lakota Funds’ goal is to meet current renters where they are, and offer them an opportunity to own the home at about what they’re paying for rental,” Dolan explained.

According to a 2014 report by the Kirwan Institute, an additional 875 three-bedroom homes are needed to house families and workers on the Pine Ridge community.

The homes available are often unsafe and in need of major repairs. According to the same 2014 report, the median home value on the reservation is $25,900 — barely one-fifth of the U.S. average of $119,000, and mold has been found in 75% of tribal housing units. 


Homes in the Pine Ridge community in need of rehabilitation.

There’s also a major mismatch between the place of residence and the place of employment — due, in part, to the lack of suitable housing. According to the same report, 51% of those who work on the reservation live somewhere else.

Dolan says that Lakota Funds’ project takes innovative steps to directly address these challenges.

“Through this project, housing is preserved and provided,” Dolan said. “One individual that’s already purchasing one of the Eagle Nest homes works in the local school district. It’s huge if you can have people housed in your community that actually serve your community — like teachers or emergency medical workers or healthcare providers.”

Lakota Funds will work with Mazaska Owecaso Otipi Financial to provide homebuyer education and financial literacy to support and empower homeowners.

First National Bank, an FHLB member, sponsored Lakota Funds’ application.