By: MICHELLE SIMON, ANN DECOUTEAU & ERIC SHEETS CONTRIBUTING
The PBPN Housing Department is charged with providing affordable housing options for all PBPN tribal members of all income levels, both on and off the reservation. These options include rental and lease-to-purchase units located on the reservation, along with providing two national programs available to all tribal members, regardless of location.
The PBP Nation has built their property holdings of 191 units through utilizing the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program to build new homes along with acquiring properties through land purchases. Three-quarters of the housing units are a blend of apartment units, duplexes, single family units, along with low-income and lease-to-purchase units. The remaining 25% of properties are specifically reserved for seniors age 62 and older.
In 2018, the Housing Department completed the most recent LIHTC project, Southwood Estates, comprised of 27 homes, ranging from 3, 4 and 5-bedroom units along with being ADA accessible, and available to low-income tribal members. In 2019, the Housing Department submitted an application for a new LIHTC project, to allow the department to rehabilitate the Senior housing units.
The Housing Department also administers two National programs to all tribal members. They consist of the Down Payment Assistance – a grant of $10,000 to assist in home ownership and Renovation Assistance – a $5,000 grant available to homeowners, each are available every 3 years pursuant to the guidelines. To qualify for renovation assistance, the PBPN member must own the home and utilize it as their primary residence. As a component of the nation-wide Down Payment program, the PBPN Housing department offers a free homebuyer workshop each quarter.
The department is headed by Ann DeCouteau, Director and a team of 7 staff which includes Property Manager Erin Hubbard, Inspector Dawn Berryhill, Office Manager Lisa Devader, National Programs Specialist Erin Pahmahmie along with Maintenance Technicians Merle Green, Richard McKinney and Larry Coates. In November 2018, DeCouteau and Hubbard received NAHASDA – Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act and LIHTC – Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Certification through the National American Indian Housing Council Leadership Institute.
To facilitate placement of tribal members into homes, the department utilizes three waiting lists on a first come, first serve basis. The three lists include rental units, lease-to-purchase and senior housing. Applicants must update their information once a year or if their address, income or household composition changes. The PBPN Housing Waiting List Verification Form, along with all pertinent applications and requirements for all housing units and housing programs are located on the Nation’s website at www.pbpindiantribe.com/housing.
For current PBPN Housing tenants, that are also employees of the PBP Nation, rent can be paid through payroll deduction. PBPN employees can fill out the required paperwork at the Housing office or at the Finance department located in the Government Center. Also, if any tribal residents wish to receive receipts and other communications via email they can provide their email information by sending an email to email@example.com or by dialing the main Housing phone line at 785-966-2756. All other questions and inquiries can be received at that number, as well as the toll-free version 866-966-2756.
Additionally, the Nation recently brought in a third party to audit the Housing program that resulted in areas where the department can improve. In response, Administration and Tribal Council are reviewing the department’s structure, policies and procedures, and internal controls and developing a management response to the audit as well as a corrective action plan to address identified issues.
Since the completion of the audit in late December 2018, the Department has made numerous changes, including migration to a new housing management software system with a suite of features designed to increase transparency and accountability.
Reservation housing continues to be in high demand, and both staff and management continue to search for effective options to increase, improve, and develop the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Community.