Five Alaska Native groups will receive more than $16 million dollars in federal affordable housing funds.
According to a news release, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, awarded nearly $200 million dollars in Indian Housing Block Grant funds to 52 Tribes and Tribally designated housing entities nationwide. Five of them are based in Alaska.
Aleutian Housing Authority was awarded about $2.5 million dollars. Erin Wilson is the deputy director. She says the funding couldn’t have come at a better time.
“We needed this,” she said. “We have a lot of unmet housing needs in our region and this particular grant is going to help us to rehab 66 units and also construct one new single-family home.”
Wilson says time and the weather -- including 100-plus-mile-an-hour winds -- have severely affected homes that were built in the 1980s and ‘90s. Many were not built to withstand the challenges of wind and rain.
“We have problems with sidings, roofs, you name it,” she said. “And just the suffering the consequences of time itself. I mean they're old homes.”
U.S. Housing Secretary Ben Carson announced the awards during video broadcast.
“It is no secret there are serious housing issues in Indian Country and more needs to be done,” Carson said in the announcement. “These awards will be used to construct 1,200 new housing units in 16 states for low-income American Indian and Alaskan Native families.”
Carson says the grants will be used to develop new affordable housing, fix existing ones and upgrade infrastructure.
Erin Wilson says that includes projects in Unalaska, King Cove, St. Paul, Nikolski and Sand Point. But, she says, it’s unfortunate that there wasn’t more money to go around.
“There are other regions in the state that are equally if not even more so in need of these funds,” Wilson said. “We're very excited to have it, but at the same time, we wish there was just a little more to go around.”
Wilson says the timeline proposed in the grant proposal intends to have the work finished in 2021. But until they get the grant information back, they don’t know when they’ll receive the cash.
The Alaska grantees also included: Cook Inlet Housing Authority; Aleut Community of St. Paul Tribal Government; Copper River Basin Regional Housing Authority; and Native Village of Fort Yukon.