Construction worker on framed roof.Location: Peach Springs, Mohave County, Arizona

Problem: The Hualapai Tribe has a chronic lack of affordable housing

Outcome: After participating in RCAC’s Tribal Excellence Academy, the Hualapai Tribe constructed three homes and plans to build a dozen more.

The Hualapai Tribe is in northwest Arizona and members number about 2,300, with a median age of 25.4 years. The Tribe’s median household income is $36,250. According to the Tribe’s leaders, housing for low-income members is a primary concern.

For the past several years, an affordable housing wait list included more than 60 families. A recent housing needs assessment illustrated that homes on the Hualapai Reservation are overcrowded. To alleviate crowding for more than 800 individuals living in units with more than one person per bedroom, 320 bedrooms are needed. The average Hualapai household has 5.3 people per household, which requires an additional 125 units to alleviate existing crowding. In addition, one Tribal leader has noted that many Hualapai, namely retirees, would like to relocate to the Reservation.

To address this problem, Hualapai Housing and Planning Department members participated in RCAC’s Tribal Housing Excellence (THE) Academy in 2018. THE Academy offers five intensive week-long trainings held during 18 months. Tribal housing agencies selected for the program send two staff people to the training. The focus is on expanding capacity, as participants work on housing projects outlined in their applications. THE Academy incubates new skills and strategies to develop and finance housing, a forum to discuss governance issues, culture and public policy unique to Tribes.

The Hualapai’s application included its plan to build up to 30 homes for higher income families who were at the time in homes with lower rent, and then to provide houses for families who had been denied low-income housing because their incomes were just slightly above the threshold limit.

Last year, the Hualapai Planning Department launched a pilot program and constructed three homes in Box Canyon that will be sold to tribal members who qualify for a home loan. This will allow those renting off-reservation the ability to buy a home of their own on the Hualapai Reservation. All in all, the Tribe hopes to build 30 homes. At the same time, the Housing Department completed major rehabilitation on 13 homes for low-income renters.

“The Hualapai Tribe is coming at their housing need from several angles,” notes Eileen Piekarz, RCAC’s lead trainer for THE Academy, “by creating ownership opportunities for higher income families, planning new rental housing for lower-income families, and rehabbing once-vacant houses. It’s a great approach.”