New Focus On Helping Native Veterans Buy Homes

Nov 11, 2016

Oglala Lakota veteran George O’Rourke (center), Lakota Funds executive director Tawney Brunsch (left) and Mazaska Financial executive director Colleen Steele (right). O'Rourke has been living in a shelter. But with the assistance of Steele and the support of Brunsch he's been approved for a home loan through Mazaska.
Credit Courtesy Mazaska Financial

A group called the South Dakota Native Home Ownership Coalition has created a new home ownership committee to focus on the housing needs of Native veterans in the state. The group focuses specifically on housing stock and land issues, homebuyer education and subsidies for Native American veterans.

Manaja Hill is the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s Veteran Service Officer and a veteran himself. Hills says the Native Veterans Home Ownership Committee was created to help make veterans aware of what’s available to assist them in purchasing a home.

“You know…as veterans we don’t know a hell of a lot of what’s out there for us,” comments hill. “That’s available to us…I guess. But what is out there…the mainstream approach…it’s not applicable on a reservation with our Native veterans.”

Hill points to the Veterans Administration’s Native American Direct Loan Program…created to assist Native veterans with purchasing or constructing homes on tribal lands.

“The Native American Direct Loan Program is advertised as a good thing for vets,” remarks Hill. “The only difference between a conventional loan and the Native American Direct Loan is that you can with a Native American Direct Loan you can build on trust property. But to do that it adds to the headaches that you go through to do it. I’m really pushing for a better way to access those funds to help veterans get homes.”

That “better way” may be through Native Community Development Financial Institutions, like the Lakota Funds. The executive director Tawney Brunsch offered her group’s assistance after learning that the regional Native American Direct Loan office led the nation last year with just 6 approved Native American loans.

“We decided a few key organizations serving our communities…like Lakota Funds and Mazaska…the Native CDFIs serving Pine Ridge…could provide hands-on assistance,” explains Brunsch.

Brunsch says proximity and familiarity with local needs and regulations make Native CDFIs’ involvement in Native veterans home ownership a no-brainer.

She adds that the plan is already showing success with Mazaska…the Pine Ridge CDFI mortgage lender…approving an Oglala veteran’s home loan just 2 weeks ago.  

Related links:

 Lakota Funds http://www.lakotafunds.org/

Mazaska Financial - http://mazaskacdfi.org/