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Handbook Seeks to Boost Reservation Homeownership

A non-profit unit of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank has published a “how to” handbook to boost homeownership and mortgage finance on reservations.

The Center for Indian Country Development was set to launch the book, the Tribal Leaders Handbook on Homeownership, at a meeting on Native homeownership at the Minneapolis Fed July 10.

The book is a collaborative effort, with writing and research contributed by Enterprise Community Partners; the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco; the Department of Housing and Urban Development; the National American Indian Housing Council; the National Native Homeownership Coalition; NeighborWorks America; and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development (disclosure: the writer of this story did some freelance editing on the project).

Patrice Kunesh, CICD Director, noted “Providing quality, safe, and affordable housing is an integral component of reservation economic development and community well-being. It supports a healthy, educated, trained workforce. Most importantly, it strengthens Native peoples’ ties to their history, to their land, and to their language and culture. We hope this Handbook will be a catalyst to create opportunities for housing choice and progress across Indian Country.”

In a blog on the CICD website, Kunesh wrote the handbook “came about from a vision for a toolkit that would help tribes understand the importance of homeownership in their communities, demystify the complex systems, and identify the players involved in the mortgage lending process.

The book got its impetus at a CICD meeting on mortgage lending in 2016. That meeting established a National Native Homeownership Coalition, which formed five working groups that studied the issues ultimately addressed in the handbook.

“Delivering housing and mortgage services efficiently to reservations has been persistently hampered by lack of capital and reluctant lenders, as well as complicated bureaucracy and federal programs that bypass reservations,” according to Kunesh. “Today, the strong demand for homeownership in Indian Country is driving renewed efforts to confront these challenges and unlock the potential of all reservation land.”

The book is designed to be used by tribal leaders, mortgage lenders, state and federal government agencies, and housing advocates. It describes successful housing developments at several tribes as well as land issues, barriers to lending, home design, leasing, and other facets of the complicated process of homeownership on Indian reservations.

The project took as its theme to try to answer two key questions:

  • What would it take to build new communities, and remake old ones, so reservations move more decisively toward economic development that benefits tribal members?
  • What financial and governance strategies could most effectively overcome barriers to these goals?

“The Handbook provides a comprehensive overview of the lending and housing development process, as well as preparing borrowers to become successful homebuyers and the importance of doing a community needs assessment and site design at the early stages of the development process,” Kunesh wrote.

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