Nevada tribes receive housing grant for COVID-19 relief

Nevada tribes receive housing grant for COVID-19 relief
The Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California has several communities south and east of Lake Tahoe. The region’s high housing costs make it especially difficult to obtain and manage housing in the area for the tribe’s approximately 1,500 enrolled members. (Photo: Washoe Housing Authority)

by Jeniffer Solis, Nevada Current
December 9, 2021

With more than $126 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development going to tribal communities across the country this year, Nevada tribes will see some of the benefits.

More than $5 million in Indian Community Block Grant-American Rescue Plan (ICDBG-ARP) grants were awarded to five Tribal communities in Nevada to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an effort to alleviate the housing shortages found on several reservations across the state, tribes will rehabilitate homes that have gone without maintenance due to lack of funding and build entirely new homes.

The Duckwater Shoshone Tribe in Nye County and The Ely Shoshone Tribe in White Pine County plan to construct up to eight new homes for tribal families living on the reservations. 

Additionally, the Moapa Band of Paiutes in Clark County and the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe in Washoe County will use funds to renovate and rehabilitate existing homes, including improving ventilation. 

The American Rescue Plan included a total of $280 million for the Indian Community Development Block Grant program, which will be awarded on a rolling basis into next year. Housing funds for tribes will help protect the health and safety of Native communities, particularly low-and moderate-income individuals and families, by expanding access to safe housing, a suitable living environment, and economic opportunities.

“HUD understands its responsibility to Indigenous communities. These awards will provide critical funding to Tribes to help them prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19,” said HUD Deputy Secretary Adrianne Todman when the first round of funds were released in November. “These awards reiterate the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to working together to meet urgent housing and community development needs in Tribal communities.”

The American Rescue Plan Act also provided about $750 million dollars in HUD resources to tribes to support their fight against COVID-19. 

Dilapidated housing has contributed to a lack of housing for Washoe tribal members and Native American families, said Martin Montgomery, executive director of the Washoe Housing Authority, which manages 81 low-rent homes for the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California.

The authority is moving forward with plans to rehabilitate 10 housing units after receiving a $1 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Nearly half of the units scheduled for rehabilitation have been vacant and empty for years, despite a waitlist, due to a lack of funding for major repairs, said Montgomery.

“A few of the other units have been in dire need of rehabilitation; old materials that continue to crack and crumble, like the flooring tiles in those units.”

The Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California has several communities south and east of Lake Tahoe, the nearest being about 30 miles south of Lake Tahoe. The high housing costs near the lake make it especially difficult to obtain and manage housing in the area for the tribe’s approximately 1,500 enrolled members.

Most units need news roofs, flooring, and window installations, said Montgomery. Over the last couple of years the authority has applied for available Indian Community Block Grant grants and slowly rehabilitated rentals for tribal families. 

The latest additional funding granted by the American Rescue Plan will allow the remaining units to be rehabilitated, adding a number of units to the housing stock for tribal families quicker than expected.

Housing funds are highly competitive given national tribal nations are competing from the same limited funding, making repairs a slow-moving process. Smaller tribes, like the Washoe Tribe, are also routinely overlooked in favor of larger tribes with higher populations living on tribal lands.

“This makes a huge impact on not only the waitlist but the current living conditions of the tenants who reside in the units. Having a high efficient rental unit saves money on energy costs and it can then assist the tenant with using their personal funds in other areas of response to the pandemic,” Montgomery said.

A lack of affordable housing on Indian reservations means people often live in overcrowded conditions, making social distancing during the pandemic difficult. 

Nationally, Native American people are disproportionately affected by the coronavirus, facing higher rates of infection, hospitalization and death. Nevada, however, fared better than other states. The percentage of illness and deaths from COVID-19 among American Indians in Nevada tracks their share of the population, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

Nevertheless, the virus has had serious effects for tribes in the state. Since the start of the pandemic, tribal leaders in Nevada have had to deal with theft, vandalism, a lack of funding and declining revenue. But vaccine rollout has been a bright spot among Nevada’s tribes.

The additional HUD funding announced for the year was made by HUD Deputy Secretary Todman during a speaking engagement at the National American Indian Housing Council’s Legal Symposium held at The Mirage in Las Vegas on Tuesday. 

“I’m pleased to announce these robust resources for Tribal communities to meet urgent housing, community, and economic development needs,” Todman said. “The funding HUD is awarding today will support our mission to ensure that every person has the security of a healthy, safe, and resilient home and community. HUD looks forward to ongoing partnerships with tribal communities to expand equity and opportunity and strengthen nation-to-nation relationships.” 

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