The Rosebud Sioux Tribe is tackling its reservation housing shortage by becoming its own builder.
Tribal officials showed off a high-tech plant Tuesday where manufactured homes are being built for the reservation. The 33,600-square-foot facility, owned by the tribe's Ojinjintka Housing Development Corporation, has the capacity to build as many as 48 homes for low-income families each year and employs tribal members.
The plant was a highlighted stop during a bus tour of the reservation with South Dakota Sen. Tim. Johnson and U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan. Donovan also used the trip to announce that $65 million would be made available to support community development and affordable housing programs on American Indian reservations nationwide.
Donovan commended the Rosebud Sioux for not only addressing their housing shortage but for seeing "housing construction as an economic development opportunity."
"It's us doing our own self-determination and showing we can do it," Rosebud Sioux Tribal President Rodney Bordeaux said.
The plant will employee 18 people by September, but could employ as many as 26 residents at wages averaging $17 per hour, officials said. Tribal officials said they hope to eventually compete for contracts off the reservation.
The tribe is currently building seven homes with $1.1 million from the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs Housing Improvement Program and another five houses under a $1 million contract provided by the federal Native American and Self-Determination Act. The houses range in size from two bedrooms to four bedrooms.
Tuesday's tour showed why adequate reservation housing is so needed. The bus stopped at a run-down trailer in the reservation community of Soldier Creek, where Donovan talked privately with Regina and David Kills in Water. The couple has no running water or sewer service, and they remain on a waiting list for a hookup or alternate housing.
Johnson, a Democrat, said the tribe's housing initiative is one of 15 projects on the Rosebud Indian Reservation kick-started by the federal stimulus package. The increase in federal spending on Rosebud and other reservations in the state is making a difference, he said.
"It doesn't solve every problem on the reservation, but it's a start," Johnson said.
After touring the plant, Donovan said $65 million would be awarded competitively to tribes through HUD's Indian Community Development Block Grant program for projects that improve housing, community facilities and infrastructure. HUD will reserve up to $3.96 million to help American Indian communities address imminent threats to health or safety that require immediate solutions.
Donovan said the administration was making a significant effort to improve the economic and life conditions on the country's reservations.
"I have seen real measurable progress, and I've seen optimism from tribal leaders around the country," he said.