Santo Domingo Tribal Housing Auth. groundbreaking
2015 THE Academy graduate Santo Domingo Tribal Housing Authority broke ground on its 41-unit housing project in spring, 2016.

THE Academy

RCAC’s Tribal Housing Excellence Academy (THE Academy) is a 30 month initiative to work with innovative Tribal organizations in the rural West with a goal to increase housing built on Tribal lands. RCAC has competitively selected five organizations to participate in the 2022-2025 class of the Tribal Housing Excellence Academy (THE Academy):

  • Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community of the Trinidad Reservation, Trinidad CA
  • Northern Circle Indian Housing Authority, Ukiah CA
  • Port Gamble S’Klallam Housing Authority, Kingston WA
  • Pueblo of Jemez Housing Authority, Jemez Pueblo NM
  • Walker River Housing Department, Schurz NV

Together these tribes have 86 homes in the development process, which will be advanced by the training and technical assistance offered through THE Academy. This THE Academy class is supported by grants from HUD’s Rural Capacity Building program and Wells Fargo.


THE Academy has been held twice in the past, in 2014-2017, and 2017-2021. Thirty staff from 15 tribal housing organizations graduated from THE Academy. In the first cohort:

  • 41 new homes were built by the end of THE Academy session
  • Participants received a combined $912,500 in expanded federal funding from Indian Community Development Block Grants and HOME Investment Partnerships Program
  • Participants secured $8.3 million in non-federal funds and Low Income Housing Tax Credit investment to leverage against their Indian Housing Block Grants

Notable achievements from the second cohort are:

  • 50% of participating organizations completed a housing project during THE Academy session
  • 52 new homes were built, and eight homes were rehabilitated or replaced
  • 23 rental homes were under construction and 49 homes were being rehabilitated when THE Academy ended
  • As a result, 132 families have better and more affordable homes
  • 242 homes were still in the development process
  • Participants received a combined $7.1 million in expanded federal funding from HOME, ICDBG, ICDBG-CARES, and National Housing Trust Funds
  • Participants secured another $5.5 million in bank loans and Low Income Housing Tax Credit investment to leverage against their Indian Housing Block Grants

What are participants saying?

“THE Academy has assisted the Craig Tribal Housing Department tremendously.” – Kari Mackie, Housing Coordinator, Craig Tribal Association, Alaska. Mackie told her fellow THE Academy participants at the graduation ceremony in July 2018 that it’s challenging to build in Alaska, where materials are hard to get and building in a cold climate isn’t very easy. THE Academy helped her and the Tribe with market analysis, appraisals, procurement, funding sources and phases of construction.

The Santo Domingo Tribal Housing Authority, who were part of the first Academy cohort, credits the initiative with spurring it to investigate and then apply for Low Income Housing Tax Credits. This led to the Wa-Di project, completed in August 2017, and is an outstanding example of financial leveraging that THE Academy promotes.

“The Housing Excellency Academy (T.H.E. Academy) has greatly benefited the Santo Domingo Tribal Housing Authority (SDTHA) through onsite/in-class trainings with direct examples of the do’s and don’ts of Tribal housing development. The SDTHA has used these examples, adapting them to fit our new 41-unit affordable housing development. We’d like to thank T.H.E. Academy for the trainings and support offered through this opportunity.” – Joseph Kunkel, project manager, SDTHA, New Mexico.

Wa-Di community building
Wa-Di Community Building
Wa-Di homes
Wa-Di Homes


THE Academy brings together Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act (NAHASDA) grantees, such as Tribally Designated Housing Entities, Housing Authorities, housing departments or the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to learn and apply best practices for managing the housing development process. We emphasize leveraging Indian Housing Block Grants/Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grants with other funding not yet widely accessed by native communities.

The selected organizations each send two staff people to six multi-day trainings held over 18 months. The training topics presented parallel stages of housing development. To maximize the capacity building aspect of the training program, participants work on their planned housing project while they attend THE Academy, giving them real world knowledge of the development process.

In addition, each organization receives individualized technical assistance and coaching between trainings and for up to 12 months after graduation from RCAC and our consultants, all of whom are experienced in housing development, housing finance, and organi­zational management.

For information about prior application rounds, click here.


Prior to 1996, housing development in Tribal communities was driven by programs that HUD conceived, administered and funded. The Native Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA) of 1996 significantly changed the model, moving all HUD funding for Tribes into a block grant program that allows them to structure their own approaches to developing housing for their members. While a welcome change, Tribes continue to struggle to meet the housing needs of all their members, for very low-income families, as well as workforce housing for teachers, health care workers, and public safety officers.

Then as now, HUD funds are inadequate. In addition, Tribes have historically faced unique challenges in building on trust land, encountered difficulties in attracting outside, private financing to their developments, and continue to face internal issues around capacity and attracting experienced staff.

In 2013, RCAC and Native Capital Access (NCA) launched Tribal Housing Excellence Academy (THE Academy) to increase the number and type of housing units produced on Tribal lands by combining training with development-focused technical assistance. RCAC is grateful to Dave Castillo and his team at Native Capital Access, now a part of Native Community Capital, who collaborated with RCAC to design and launch THE Academy.

The first class of THE Academy was generously supported by a HUD Rural Capacity Building Grant, USDA Rural Community Development Initiative, American Express, Bank of America, NeighborWorks America, Rabobank and Wells Fargo NEXT Awards for Opportunity Finance. The 2017 class was supported by a HUD Rural Capacity Building Grant, Capital One, and Morgan Stanley Charitable Foundation.

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