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Providing Real Solutions in South Dakota

​~ Mary Burrows

Historically, South Dakota Native communities

have experienced the most severe housing

shortages in the United States, while waiting

lists for housing vouchers and tribal rentals

can be years-long.

In 2013, a group of entities formed the South

Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition (SDNHC) with an express purpose of expanding home ownership opportunities for the nine tribal communities of South Dakota and their adjunct reservations in North Dakota.

The Coalition is a collaboration that includes representatives from South Dakota tribes, state and federal agencies, Tribally Designated Housing Entities (TDHE), non-profits, developers, lenders, and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI). Members collectively develop and implement strategies to promote Native homeownership. Six staff members communicate with various partners and volunteers in creating opportunities for Native American families to occupy safe, healthy, and permanent homes for the sake of generations to come.

During its first annual membership meeting, on August 29, 2023, SDNHC was awarded a $1.7 million grant from Wells Fargo Foundation's Invest Native initiative in support of SDNHC's continued growth and development.

Otis Rolley, president of Wells Fargo Foundation stated, “The collaborative approach of the South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition is highly effective in creating more access to resources and empowering Native homeowners.”

Coalition director Cheryce Not Afraid commented that, “We are grateful to Wells Fargo for investing in statewide coalitions like ours that bring together partners who develop innovative strategies to help Native American families overcome barriers associated with Homeownership in Indian Country.”

In 2016, SDNHC implemented a data-collection system that statistically illustrates the impact that members' efforts have on Native homeownership. Twenty-four organizations that provide training assistance and/or loans contribute the data.

Tools for, and discussions about, data collection are available at the Coalition's web site. Tools are designed to have positive impacts on member organizations.

Also announced at the meeting was the creation of SDNHC's new Down Payment Assistance Program (DPAP), funded by NorthWest Area Foundation and Wells Fargo, which will infuse $500,000 of down payment monies into Native communities.

​​Amounts up to $10,000 are awarded to member clients who qualify for expenses related to mortgage financing and closing costs. Funds are available to on- and off-reservation borrowers. DPAP loans are forgiven If the homeowner resides in the home for five or more years.

Senator Michael Rounds; R-SD, also discussed legislative efforts he is making to streamline many government processes that thus far have hindered Native homeownership.

“Throughout our ten-year history,” said Sharon Nagel, Coalition Chair and Executive Director of Cheyenne River Housing Authority, “we've strived [sic] to make it easier to achieve homeownership. Since 2016, Coalition members have supported 253 Native families to become homeowners. As we expand our programming and continue to remove federal policy impediments, that will only get higher.”

On October 2, 2023, SDNHC, in partnership with BigWater Consulting and NeighborWorks, launched a survey to assess housing needs of Native warriors on the nine reservations: warriors whom, historically, have served their country in percentages larger than other ethnicities. General demographic information will be gathered along with that regarding specific needs of each respondent relative to current housing situations, individual challenges, and their preferences when it comes to housing.

The Coalition functions with five working committees. Impediments to Native homeownership caused by systemic policies are identified and addressed by the Policy Committee.

SDNHC's Physical Issues Committee focuses on issues having to do with land and infrastructure. The committee, as of 2021, had provided 14,800 hours of work experience to tribal members. Thirty-seven internships were completed in collaboration with member contractors, and 11 persons had been placed in full-time positions. SDNHC also provides training and educational opportunities to individuals who perform jobs related to acquiring land, inspecting buildings, and the actual housing construction. More qualified employees means more funding opportunities and more positive ratings from Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Using a variety of methods, Coalition and Member Sustainability Committee builds the sustainability of member organizations and of the Coalition.

Strategies to educate buyers are implemented by the Homebuyer Readiness Committee with the goal of increasing success stories within their communities.

Matters concerning housing and land issues, education, and subsidies are addressed

by the Native Veterans Homeownership Committee to increase access to resources for military veterans.

The Coalition provides tool kits and resource guides to funding programs and service providers, as well as downloadable resources and reports, in their efforts to be an example of working together for the greater good. To date, SDNHC has deployed $23,448,438 in loans to 183 new homeowners and 70 renovation projects, and has provided training to 884 individuals.

In little more than a decade, South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition has become a lifeline for Natives and a beacon illuminating the path to safe and affordable shelter in Lakota Country.

South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition (