Photograph of the front façade of a two-story single-family house.
Photograph of the front façade of two two-story single-family detached houses.
Photograph of the rear of a single-family detached house with several large windows to capture natural light and awnings and with overhangs on each of the two stories for shading in warmer months.
Photograph of three two-story single-family detached houses along a street.

 

Home >Case Studies >Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Montana: Expanding Housing Opportunities on Tribal Lands

 

Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Montana: Expanding Housing Opportunities on Tribal Lands

 

Fort Peck Homes II is a scattered-site, infill development project located on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in the towns of Wolf Point and Poplar, Montana. Developed by the Fort Peck Housing Authority in partnership with Travois, a consulting firm that has specialized in housing and economic development in Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities for 20 years, the 24 single-family rental houses were designed to be energy efficient and to accommodate the multigenerational families of the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes. Fort Peck Homes II received the Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition’s 2015 Charles L. Edson Tax Credit Excellence Award for rural housing.

Located in northeastern Montana, the Fort Peck Indian Reservation is remote and rural. Two of the largest communities on the 2 million-acre reservation are Wolf Point and Poplar. The communities are located roughly 20 miles from one another, just north of a meander in the Missouri River. Since forming in the 1960s, the Fort Peck Housing Authority has played an important role in developing and managing affordable housing in communities on the reservation. Like many tribes across the country, the Fort Peck Housing Authority has faced considerable challenges to expanding its high-quality housing opportunities, including significant capital needs, limited funding opportunities, and the difficulty of drawing developers and investors to the rural plains. As a result, overcrowding is a prevailing housing condition for many families on the reservation.

LIHTC Brings Investment to Indian Country

In recent years, however, the housing authority has been able to significantly expand quality housing opportunities in its communities through the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program. In 2009, the housing authority completed its first LIHTC-financed project, rehabilitating 23 single-family homes. Encouraged by this project’s success, the housing authority secured an allocation of tax credits in 2011 to construct 24 single-family properties in Wolf Point and Poplar.

The second project, Fort Peck Homes II, also supported broader revitalization efforts in the communities. The housing authority used vacant land and lots with substandard structures in neighborhoods targeted for infill development. As a result, 24 households now live in modern homes near employers, community amenities, and public transportation. This approach also significantly reduced construction costs by taking advantage of existing infrastructure.

Along with the sites’ sustainable location (close to both public transit and employment centers), the houses include a number of green building features, including passive solar design features that reduce heating and lighting demand. All of the units were designed to maximize their southern exposure, with floorplans and building elements that could be easily rotated based on a lot’s orientation to the street. A high-performance building envelope promotes energy efficiency, and the units are equipped with ENERGY STAR®-certified appliances, tankless hot water heaters, and programmable thermostats — all of which help lower utility costs.

The single-family homes were also designed to maintain the scale and character of the neighborhood while also taking into account the multigenerational housing needs of many tribal families. To ameliorate overcrowding in Poplar and Wolf Point, the project includes 17 three-bedroom units and 7 four-bedroom units. When construction began, nearly 400 families on the reservation lived in overcrowded conditions, and more than 100 families were on the housing authority’s waiting list. Fort Peck Homes II has helped address these significant housing needs.

The $6.1 million project was financed with minimal debt and significant equity contributions (table 1). The project generated more than $4.7 million in low-income housing tax credit equity and also received a $215,000 grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle’s Affordable Housing Program. The housing authority provided a loan of approximately $1.2 million. The units receive an operating subsidy through a project-based voucher housing assistance payment contract. In addition to these financing sources, the properties where the units are located are held in a trust and are not subject to property taxes, thus helping to minimize operating costs. The housing authority expects that households will have the opportunity to purchase their homes after the initial 15-year tax credit compliance period, effectively creating new homeownership and wealth-building opportunities.

Table 1: Financing for Fort Peck Homes II

LIHTC equity

$4,730,000

Affordable Housing Program grant

215,000

Fort Peck Housing Authority loan

1,215,000

Total

$6,160,000

Lessons Learned

Through its partnership with Travois, the Fort Peck Housing Authority has been able to expand sustainable, energy-efficient housing opportunities on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. The housing authority used Travois’ extensive experience with low-income housing tax credits to attract equity investments that had not been previously used in Fort Peck or many other tribal areas throughout the country. The tax credits allowed the housing authority to improve housing conditions at a scale and level of quality that was not possible when relying solely on the housing authority’s resources. These investments have provided new, high-quality housing that meets the need for affordable, multigenerational housing, while addressing overcrowding and housing quality issues that are common on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation.


 

Source:

Documents provided by Travois.

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Source:

Documents provided by Travois; Kathryn L.S. Pettit, G. Thomas Kingsley, Jennifer Biess, Kassie Bertumen, Nancy Pindus, Chris Narducci, and Amos Budde. 2014. “Continuity and Change: Demographic, Socioeconomic, and Housing Conditions of American Indians and Alaska Natives,” U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Policy Development and Research, xiii–xv. Accessed 13 March 2016.

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Source:

Documents provided by Travois; Interview with Iva Grainger, deputy director, Fort Peck Housing Authority, 17 March 2016.

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Source:

Interview with Iva Grainger, deputy director, Fort Peck Housing Authority, 17 March 2016.

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Source:

Interview with Ashley Bland, director, Design and Construction Services, Travois, 17 March 2016.

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Source:

Documents provided by Travois.

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Source:

Documents provided by Travois.

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Source:

Dewey Bandy. 2014. “Native Americans and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program: Lessons from the California Tribal Pilot Program,” Community Investments 26:2, 30–5. Accessed 13 March 2016; Documents provided by Travois.

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