United Keetoowah Band to begin Elder Home Project
TAHLEQUAH – The United Keetoowah Band is finalizing building plans and will soon move forward with its Elder Home Project, a pilot program to construct small, energy efficient homes for low-income elders ages 55 and older.
“There was a need for housing for some of our elders who lived in substandard housing conditions, but we didn’t necessarily want to put them in a big two-bedroom, three-bedroom house because they really can’t afford to live in a house that big,” Charles Deason, UKB Housing Department development manager, said. “We got to researching different housing options and it was kind of born from there.”
Deason said the project is expected to begin within “60 to 90 days” using approved contractors via a bidding process. He described the homes as “cottages” on permanent foundations ranging from 500 to 1,000 square feet.
“It will have insurance ratings, and it will be built to the national building codes, and it will be a standard home. They’ll be fully equipped when we give you the keys, minus the furniture. It will have all the appliances and all the amenities of a regular home. It’ll just be a small home. We’re looking to do two to three this year and next year, depending on the amount of applications and the participation that we have. We hope to maybe increase that.”
The homes are intended for one to two occupants.
“That’s like a single elder who may have a caregiver that stays with them part-time or an elder that has just been displaced and maybe having to live with family members and they just kind of want to be independent, but still be close to their families,” Deason said.
Applicants must own land in the UKB’s operating area and will be selected based on a point system that relies on various factors to determine eligibility and need.
“The basic requirements are that you have to be Native American. Another that you have to have is a minimum income amount with HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development),” Deason said. “We also give preference to exclusive Keetoowahs. We give preference to elders. The program is for 55 and up, but we give more points to those that are 62 and older. We also give preference to those that are full blood. We take all of those things into consideration.”
Deason said once all applications have been received, the UKB Housing Department would evaluate them before passing recommendations to the UKB Housing Committee.
The homes will take approximately 45 days to complete once building starts, and the budget would vary depending on the occupant’s needs.
“We’re looking at somewhere around $50,000 as the total,” he said. “It could be more. It could be a little less, but that’s our target budget for each home. Each one will have a different value depending on the amount of work that is having to be done. We’re wanting to do cost-effective and energy efficient housing.”
The homes will be primarily funded through the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act. “It is NAHASDA monies. It’s set aside. We’ve also realigned some budget items, and we’re using acquisition funds in acquiring homes for these particular individuals. Funds are limited,” Deason said.
Occupants will own their homes after making income-based monthly payments on a 10-year loan, though the UKB will cover any applicable taxes and insurance for the duration, Deason said.
“We’re still kind of learning as we go,” he said. “We hope to have it streamlined one of these days, but right now we’re still trying to figure out all the bugs that might be in it. Our elders are what we’re all about. If it wasn’t for the elders, none of us would be here.”
Applications are available at the UKB Housing Department and upon request by phone by calling 918-871-2773. The deadline for applications is July 2. Completed applications may be delivered or mailed to the UKB Housing Department at P.O. Box 746, Tahlequah, OK 74465.