Tribal communities welcome federal relief funds to help ease housing issues


Affordable housing is in short supply on this country’s Indian reservations, just as it is just about everywhere else. There’s a big federal block grant for tribal housing, but it’s never been enough to meet the need. Funding has been essentially flat for decades until now. It’s growing because of federal pandemic relief dollars. Montana Public Radio’s Freddy Monares reports from one of seven reservations in that state.

FREDDY MONARES, BYLINE: A 2017 federal assessment of housing needs for American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian people found that reservations need 68,000 new homes to eliminate overcrowding and to replace units that are inadequate. Sarah Saadian, vice president of public policy at the National Low Income Housing Coalition, says that number is likely an undercount.

SARAH SAADIAN: But based on the numbers that exist, we see very consistently that Native Americans have some of the worst housing needs in the U.S.

MONARES: Fifty-four-year-old Tyrone Burke lives that reality on the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe’s reservation in Montana. He was couch surfing with relatives until September, when a space opened at the tribal housing authorities transitional living center. He rolls his wheelchair down a ramp to the door of his living unit. It’s the size of a studio apartment.

TYRONE BURKE: Like I said, for family get-togethers, this wouldn’t be very ideal, you know, but it’s a space for for me and my kids, you know?

MONARES: He shares a bunk bed with his 10-year-old son. His 11-year-old daughter has a bed […]

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