Back in the home construction business
BY BILL JOHN BAKER
As you may have heard, the Cherokee Nation is back in the home construction business.
Earlier this year, the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation was re-launched and started taking applications from across the 14 counties. The first families are about to start moving in to their respective homes and the HACN is still wading through the more than 900 applications received as of July’s council meeting.
Although the work our Commerce Department’s Mortgage Assistance Program does is to be commended, it is not necessarily the best option for every citizen. With a Nation as large and diverse as ours, a “one size fits all” approach does not always work when dealing with assistance programs.
Additionally, these homes have the potential to help alleviate a couple of issues within the CN. Granted, they are not a cure-all by any stretch of the imagination, but they are an important step forward.
These homes are being built right here within the Nation. We’re not using a factory in another state or another country to cut out parts for pre-fabricated buildings. These jobs are an opportunity to put our citizens to work in our communities. It’s no secret that unemployment is still high and as a Nation, we should jump at any chance to bring quality jobs to our citizens, especially in our poorer areas where new employment opportunities of any kind are generally few and far between.
In addition to providing jobs to our citizens, these homes have the potential to provide additional money for our badly underfunded public school districts.
Since these homes are being built on what is considered “Indian land” by the federal government, they bring Impact Aid money to the local school districts. We are all aware that our school districts are scraping for every dollar possible right now and this long-standing federal program compensates districts for property within their areas that are not necessarily subject to state property taxes. The money that comes with each child living in one of those homes is outside the formula used by the state to determine school districts’ funding and can be used in any way the local school district wants. For some schools, it may make the difference between retaining or firing a teacher or keeping a bus route running.
As we continue to move this Nation forward toward a proud future, I firmly believe that every Cherokee citizen should have access to safe, affordable housing without having to leave our communities across northeastern Oklahoma. By providing an opportunity for our citizens to live, work and play near their extended families, we can keep our language, culture and traditions strong for our future generations.
Bill John Baker