One of our most critical values as Cherokee people is that our elders are essential keepers of our history and culture, and they deserve to live in safety and dignity. In 2019 Deputy Chief Bryan Warner and I proposed, and the Council of the Cherokee Nation approved, the Housing, Jobs and Sustainable Communities Act.
Under that law, we invested $30 million in revenue from the tribe’s business arm, primarily to help elders and Cherokees with disabilities with home repairs or, in some cases, brand-new replacement homes. The investment allowed us to repair or replace 200 homes and upgrade tribal community buildings with solar panels and energy efficient appliances.
Now in 2022, we are ready to build on that progress. Deputy Chief Warner and I recently proposed that the Council expand and extend the law with a commitment of $120 million. This would quadruple our efforts to end home insecurity for Cherokees, as well as create hundreds of quality construction jobs for years to come.
This historic commitment to safe and affordable housing has the potential to make generational changes across the Cherokee Nation. We will expand affordable housing options, help low-income families with home repairs and address other housing needs, like expanding our Cherokee Speakers Village and ensuring that emergency housing is available for any citizens who find themselves in a crisis across the 7,000-square-mile Cherokee Nation Reservation.
Our goal is to ensure safe, well-maintained and affordable housing across the lifespan, from young Cherokee families putting down roots to Cherokee elders. Cherokee families and the Cherokee Nation are strongest when all of our generations have a safe place within their home community.
The proposed expansion would use a combination of tribal dollars and funds available under the federal American Rescue Plan Act. Half of the proposed funding – $60 million – will be earmarked for new home construction, shortening wait times for applicants to the tribe’s New Home Construction Program.
It is a testament to the progress we are making as a tribe that even as our 2019 investment was the most ambitious housing plan in Cherokee history, it pales in comparison to our new proposal. Our past efforts have been successful, but we still have great need when it comes to secure homes. The program is also structured in a way that will actually boost funding for our housing programs in the future.
Our commitment to build new homes across the reservation means we have an opportunity to strengthen Cherokee families’ finances and help them to build wealth. The Housing, Jobs and Sustainable Communities Act reauthorization can be a foundation of security and prosperity for our citizens for generations to come. Building that brighter future starts with having a secure place to call home.
Chuck Hoskin Jr.