South Dakota USDA Rural Development, Governor’s Office of Economic Development, South Dakota Housing Development Authority (SDHDA), and the Great Plains Native Asset Building Coalition convened a vital meeting of stakeholders recently to gain input on the creation of a statewide coalition to support and promote homeownership in South Dakota Native communities.
Six of the nine Indian reservations in South Dakota, including representatives of six Indian housing authorities participated in the session, as well as Nathan Sanderson of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. In addition to USDA Rural Development, federal stakeholders included the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs, and Indian Health Service. About 50 people gathered for a daylong working session to provide critical impute on the goals and priorities of a proposed coalition.
“This meeting was a historic first step towards collectively working towards increased homeownership opportunities in Indian country,” said USDA Rural Development State Director Elsie Meeks. “A coalition could support the partners on the ground, housing authorities, state, federal and tribal governments; all working towards not only homeownership but wealth building within Tribal communities”.
The session began with introductions and supporting comments from the State of South Dakota Secretary of Tribal Relations, J. R. LaPlante that expressed his support for the meeting to further the dialogue on tribal housing in South Dakota. Mark Lauseng, SDHDA Executive Director, hosted and was on the planning committee for the session, “A coalition and the partnerships that it could create will be a vehicle for needed resources and support systems across the state.”
An electronic survey was conducted prior to the meeting and the results showed that the most effective avenues for homeownership preparation are to provide credit counseling and financial/homebuyer education. Many times it is the local Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) that is the integral service provider located within the community. Tawney Brunsch, Lakota Funds Executive Director and Great Plains Native Asset Building Coalition leader, supports the homeownership coalition stating, “Asset development and financial literacy are necessary tools on the journey to homeownership.”
With the full support of key stakeholders across the state, a homeownership coalition is on the horizon. Priorities to engage tribal leaders, develop statewide goals, conduct policy advocacy and peer networking and provide a clearing house for resources and services; the coalition will move the dream of homeownership on Native lands to reality.
USDA recently included South Dakota as a StrikeForce state and the StrikeForce economic development goals for the state include increased and focused support and outreach on Tribal lands by USDA Rural Development, Natural Resource Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency.