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The Spokane Indian Housing Authority (SIHA) in June received $500,000 in Indian Community Development Block Grant (ICDBG) funding from HUD. It is crucial funding that will allow SIHA to rehabilitate, weatherize, and extend the useful life of 16 affordable homes.

Built in the 1970s, the homes are part of the 46-unit Martha Boardman subdivision on the Spokane Indian Reservation. It’s the oldest housing stock in SIHA’s portfolio, primarily home to families with children. “With these funds, we should be able to do work that is critically important for the wellbeing of people who live in these homes — now and in the future,” explains Tim Horan, Executive Director of SIHA.

Right: Previous SIHA projects include construction of a community center and a solar panel installation.

While SIHA has completed some renovations to the subdivision over time, Horan says the ICDBG award will allow them to do more comprehensive updates. Like all other construction and rehabilitation work SIHA undertakes, the Housing Authorities own construction company, which is almost exclusively Spokane tribal members, will complete the updates.

From homeownership opportunities and affordable rentals, to weatherization and home improvement loans, SIHA offers a variety of programs to support the success of tribal members, primarily households earning 80 percent of Area Median Income and below. But the community wants to do more. “There are not sufficient financial resources flowing into Indian Country to address all of the needs and the goals that we have to improve our individual communities,” Horan says.

Housing and community development funding for tribal communities has been stagnant for decades. “Resources don’t go as far as they need to,” Horan explains. “For every funding application HUD’s Office of Native American Programs gets, other good projects go unfunded and individual community needs go unfunded. We can’t keep up with need and demand based on funding sources that we have. It’s incredibly challenging for housing authorities to build and develop new homes.” Instead, Horan says, they must focus on preserving existing homes.

Applying for ICDBG funds was a bit of a roller coaster, with this winter’s federal government shutdown adding an unexpected twist to the application deadline. Despite that, SIHA secured the first ICDBG award in five years to the Spokane tribe or one of its entities. Horan says their success was due to the hard work of SIHA staff and the partnership of organizations like Rural Community Assistance Corporation and MHP.

Sarah Bellefuil, Deputy Community Development Director at MHP, supported SIHA as they put their application together. “Hands down, no question Sarah was a superstar for us,” Horan says. “She’s a great detail person, so when she looks at a grant application, she questions everything. That thoroughness allowed us to provide the best responses we could, and it was what was allowed us to get 99 out of 102 available points on the application.”

Horan says self-sufficiency and resilience are key goals for the community, exemplified by SIHA’s Children of the Sun Solar Initiative, now underway. The project will provide 650 kilowatts of solar energy on 23 tribal buildings and nine residential buildings, saving the community an estimated $2.8 million over the next 30 years. 

“With this project, we save money and put less pollutants into the air,” Horan explains. “That’s a big priority of the tribe to be good to the environment and be a good steward of the land. It also promotes energy sovereignty, so the tribe can be self sufficient.”