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MT Housing Partnership Conference discusses Indian Country housing barriers

Posted at 9:06 AM, May 22, 2024

MISSOULA — The Montana Housing Partnership conference is in town this week and one talk from it that stood out was Elevating Indian Country Beyond an Asterisk Nation.

The talk centered around several points including the lack of data that exists for native populations as a whole as well as the current barriers that are facing Indigenous peoples when it comes to housing. And lastly, of course, some solutions that are being implemented.

To begin, it’s important to acknowledge the fact that there is a serious lack of data when it comes to native populations and housing.

Researchers say this is in large part due to the small sample sizes that data collectors use now. According to Libby Starling, senior community development advisor at the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, there are several things that need to be done to correct this.

“In order to get a lot of people responding it takes a commitment to expand the sample size. To make the investments into data collection because Native Americans deserve the same amount of data as other groups.”

This lack of data makes it challenging to determine key issues that face native and Indian communities when it comes to housing but, there are still some barriers that can be identified.

Tonya Plummer, Director of Native American housing programs for Enterprise Community Partners explained that “Troubled federal Indian policy and the relationship of the government with Indians, native tribes and with people” was a large part of the problem.

“A lot of broken promises and broken treaties. And deficient funding through the Indian housing block grant that was authorized in the Native American Housing and Self-Determination Act in 1996.”

Overall, Native Americans have a higher home-ownership rate when compared to other groups such as Black people and Latinos but with that, it is important to note the quality of the homes that are owned - 25% of native homeowners heat their homes with wood for example.

But besides the troubles that exist, it is also important to note that there is a resiliency within the communities that is helping to bring forward solutions, Plummer told MTN “We’re getting creative, looking at manufactured housing and modular housing, other panel housing and unique structures.”

The conference wraps up on Wednesday.