HUD awards $7 million to Native villages
Alaska Native groups have been awarded nearly $7 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for housing projects across the state.
HUD Secretary Julian Castro made the announcement during an Oct. 6 visit to Anchorage hosted by Sen. Mark Begich.
In all, 15 Alaska communities from all regions of the state received up to $600,000 in Indian Community Development Block Grant Program, or ICDBG, funds. Nationwide, about $60 million of the competitive grant money went to more than 90 tribal communities from 23 states.
“These grants are critical to promote housing and economic development and they also support self-determination,” Castro said. “Our tribal partners, not Washington, (D.C.), decide which activities and projects meet their needs.”
After meeting with housing authority leadership from across Alaska, Castro said he was impressed with the existing relationships between government and the state’s private organizations and the work done to improve communities in the state — one of the reasons the state was awarded as much as it was.
“We’re committed to harnessing the power and the resources of partnerships with our state government, our local governments and the leadership of nonprofits here as well on the ground to ensure that more folks have a good roof over their head and more than that a better quality of life,” Castro said. “In so many ways the positive changes that happen won’t be because of D.C.; they’ll be because of strong leadership here.”
Begich, a former Anchorage mayor, said he is confident the money will be spent wisely on appropriate projects because HUD has a “robust and aggressive” auditing department for such grants, a group he became familiar with when working on grant-funded community development in the city.
“If there was one piece of paper incorrect we would hear about it,” Begich quipped.
Awards to nine groups nationwide will be eligible to be used for mold remediation in tribal-owned and designated housing, according to a HUD release. It was the first time HUD money has been used for similar mold problems last fiscal year, Castro said.
The Indian Community Development funds are part of more than $736 million HUD received in fiscal 2014 to support housing and community development work in Indian, Alaska Native and native Hawaiian communities nationally.
Cook Inlet Tribal Council received $600,000 to purchase property in East Anchorage that will be the site of 23 senior housing units and retail space. Primarily a social services organization, CITC is working with Cook Inlet Housing Authority on the mixed-use building that will have residences on top and about 7,000 feet of retail space on the ground floor, according to authority president and CEO Carol Gore.
The senior housing is part of the larger, $17 million Creekside Town Center project at the corner of Muldoon Road and DeBarr Avenue.
CITC President and CEO Gloria O’Neill said her work is focused on connecting people with opportunities and the only way that is possible is through partnerships like the one CITC has with Cook Inlet Housing.
“We know that housing is probably our greatest challenge to overcome in Anchorage today and CITC is just very grateful that we could play a small piece in it all,” O’Neill said at the press conference announcing the grants.
Rental vacancy rates in the state’s largest city are some of the lowest in the nation, fluctuating between 2 percent and 3 percent in recent years, a situation that has caused prices to spike and begun to impact Anchorage’s economy, city leaders have said.
Earlier this year Cook Inlet Housing Authority won the HUD Secretary’s Opportunity and Empowerment Award for its decade of work to invest $84 million in Anchorage’s Mountain View neighborhood and turn 130 blighted properties into more than 270 affordable homes.
At an Anchorage Chamber of Commerce forum following the grant announcement, Castro was asked what HUD could do to promote more affordable and space conscious multifamily development in Anchorage. He said a shift in housing demand has taken place in the Lower 48 since the market crash of 2008-09 as young prospective homebuyers are waiting longer to purchase their first homes and looking more to multifamily units when they do.
“The market seems to have started to reshape itself and even during these last few years there has been a commitment to the development of the multifamily housing market at a much stronger rate compared to single family housing,” Castro said.
He added he would expect to see the trend emerge in Anchorage as well.
Castro, who took the cabinet position July 28, said at the chamber forum all of the work HUD does is to maximize benefits for those willing to tackle challenges.
“I believe our nation has been greatest through the years when we match folks taking advantage and working hard in their own lives with opportunities we commit to as a nation and that’s the role I see HUD playing. At HUD, we like to call ourselves the department of opportunity,” he said.
Castro is the fourth cabinet-level official from the Obama administration that Begich, who is running for reelection, has hosted in Alaska in the past few months. The others include Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.
Alaska grant recipients
Cook Inlet Tribal Council Inc. — $600,000
Eklutna Native Village — $600,000
Gulkana Village — $600,000
Hughes Village — $345,919
Metlakatla Housing Authority — $600,000
Native Village of Akutan — $170,680
Native Village of Atka — $600,000
Native Village of Gakona — $75,000
Native Village of Kongiganak — $600,000
Native Village of Ruby — $600,000
Native Village of Tazlina — $40,000
Northway Village — $600,000
Organized Village of Kasaan — $599,904
Pribilof Island Aleut Community of St. Paul Island — $600,000
Rampart Village — $339,213
Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected].