United Keetoowah Band discusses current, upcoming housing programs
Nancy McCause, United Keetoowah Band Housing Department director, right, speaks with a UKB citizen during a housing assistance information meeting on May 11 at the Fairfield Community Building in Stilwell. McCause also discussed existing and upcoming housing programs, including tiny homes for elders while passing out pamphlets detailing individual programs. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
United Keetoowah Band housing assessment surveys and information bags are distributed during a May 11 meeting at the Fairfield Community Building in Stilwell. UKB Chief Joe Bunch said data from the surveys, which would be distributed and accepted until June 29, were to be used to determine housing needs for citizens. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
STILWELL – The United Keetoowah Band Housing Department and tribal officials met with UKB citizens in the Flint and Goingsnake districts to distribute housing aid information and assessment surveys on May 11 at the Fairfield Community Building.
“In the past, some things kept people from receiving services or they’ve gotten frustrated with the application process and gathering documents,” UKB Chief Joe Bunch said. “It’s really not that hard but sometimes you need guidance. We’ve got a great staff out there working.”
The meeting followed the formation of a UKB Housing Committee, Councilor Frankie Still said.
“When I first got in office there was no such thing as a housing committee, so a group of us got together to try and see what we could do to help,” he said. “We’ve come a long ways in about a year and four months to detangle all this mess. This information wasn’t getting out, it wasn’t being brought out.”
Various assistance programs were discussed, including mortgage and rental, college student rental, storm shelter and rehabilitation and emergency repairs.
According to distributed information, mortgage assistance for eligible citizens who are first-time homeowners is available for up to $10,000, while rental assistance is available for up to one month of rent or up to $750 towards deposit fees for new renters. Eligible full-time college students can also receive up to $1,200 per semester for housing costs.
For eligible citizens who own homes but need assistance, the UKB offers a rehabilitation program that provides up to $35,000 and an emergency repairs program that grants up to $5,000.
Weather-related assistance is also available. UKB is offering eligible citizens storm shelter assistance up to $2,500, as well as air conditioners and help with cooling bills through the Oklahoma Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
UKB Housing Director Nancy McCause said citizens should stop by her office for applications even if they’ve been previously denied help. “They need to come to our office and apply. It could be that they didn’t fit into one program, but we can help them decide which way they need to go.”
McCause also said other programs the tribe will pursue in the upcoming year include Section 184 Indian Home Loan Guarantees through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as tiny homes for elders.
“We’re really excited about the tiny homes for elders,” she said. “It kind of evolved over our housing meetings because names kept coming up of elders that were just living in travel trailers and things like that. So the more we looked into this, the more excited we got. We’ve already got about three applicants for it. We’re getting ready to pick a design and go with it. We’re very close.”
Sean Nordwall, UKB Tribal Operations and Federal Programs executive director, said the UKB is also looking at buying land to build duplexes for tribal housing and offering lease-to-own options.
“With the lease-to-own, you would work through the tribe, so people with not-so-spectacular credit should be able to make it work,” he said. “You just have to come by and it would be a case-by-case basis. We’re trying to make it as easy as possible for our members to get into a good place to live. We really want to help the people and do what we can to get the services out because we’re very much underserved.”
In addition to discussing current and upcoming housing projects, officials distributed housing assessment surveys to citizens to better understand what services are most needed.
“We will compare it with what we already have, and we’ll put it back into the next year’s budget and see which way we can go with it,” Bunch said. “Feel free to write in what you think your community needs.”
UKB officials said more meetings are planned to get the surveys to citizens, but for those who can’t attend, surveys can be picked up and returned to the UKB Federal Programs Building. Data will be collected until June 29.
For more information, call 918-871-2773 or visit the UKB Housing Department at 18263 W. Keetoowah Circle in Tahlequah.