Photograph taken from one story above ground of several one- and two-story attached residences designed in the pueblo style, with a mesa in the background.
Photograph taken from one story above ground of community members standing near and seated under a large tent during the Cedar Hills’ opening ceremony. The single-story community building is at the left edge of the photograph, and a row of attached residential buildings is in the middle ground.
Panoramic photograph of the landscape of the Acoma Pueblo, with Sky City on the top of the mesa in the middle ground.
Photograph of the front façade of an attached dwelling, with a stucco veneer and vigas as well as glazed windows, handrails, and downspouts.
Photograph of several attached residences, with courtyards at the units’ entrances. Doors on the upper floor of the two 2-story units provide access to patios on first-floor roofs.
Photograph of the single-story community building (left) and playground (right), with attached residences in the background.
Photograph of 18 children and 1 adult, with attached residences in the background.
Photograph taken from within a courtyard across the central common space to one- and two-story attached residences in the background.

 

Home >Case Studies >Pueblo of Acoma, New Mexico: Cedar Hills Development Adds Affordable Housing, Sustains the Environment and Tribal Culture

 

Pueblo of Acoma, New Mexico: Cedar Hills Development Adds Affordable Housing, Sustains the Environment and Tribal Culture

 

Facing a critical need for affordable housing on the Pueblo of Acoma, a Native American reservation 65 miles west of Albuquerque, New Mexico, the local housing authority asked tribal members to participate in a community needs assessment in 2014. Participants expressed a strong need for rental housing and a desire for the housing to reflect the tribe’s traditions, including its historic pueblo architecture. Perhaps the best example of that form of housing stands atop a sandstone mesa on the Acoma reservation: Sky City, a village that has been continuously inhabited for nearly 1,000 years and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Based on that assessment, the Pueblo of Acoma Housing Authority (PAHA) worked with Travois, a national housing development and architecture firm with experience in tribal communities, to develop Cedar Hills. The 30-unit project provides much-needed affordable housing and an appropriate setting for continuing the tribe’s rich traditions. In addition, Cedar Hills offers social, behavioral, and financial services and incorporates sustainable features that preserve natural resources.

Affordable Housing in a Pueblo

Cedar Hills includes 16 two-bedroom units and 14 three-bedroom units in 3 residential buildings arranged in a U-shape around a community open space. Three of the units are affordable to households earning up to 30 percent of the area median income (AMI), 20 units are affordable to households earning up to 50 percent of AMI, and 7 units are affordable to households earning up to 60 percent of AMI. Each unit opens onto an exterior courtyard, with some units sharing a courtyard, and the two-story units have a rooftop patio. The architecture of Cedar Hills is in keeping with the traditional Pueblo of Acoma style. The attached one- and two-story buildings are covered in textured stucco resembling natural stone and dirt. The site design, with buildings facing community open space, is inspired by the layout of Sky City, but the open space includes modern features such as a playground, basketball court, and walking path. A community building, which contains a kitchen, a public meeting room, and private offices where community agencies can provide services in a confidential setting, is also located in the central area.

Cultural and Environmental Sustainability

Cultural sustainability is a centerpiece of Cedar Hills, according to Floyd Tortalita, executive director of PAHA, and it guided the development’s building design and site layout. The attached residences with courtyards and rooftop patios foster contact among neighbors. The relationship of the residential buildings to the common space and community building further encourage spontaneous meetings and conversations. Although PAHA does not offer any formal language training onsite, it hopes that elders will use the native Acoma language in public spaces to preserve this aspect of the tribe’s heritage. Just as Tortalita learned the Acoma language and the tribe’s traditions by spending time with his grandparents, he and the architects are hoping that Cedar Hills will provide residents with opportunities to informally pass on Acoma culture.

In a nod to the tribe’s relationship with nature, Cedar Hills also embodies the Pueblo of Acoma’s commitment to sustainability. The buildings include an insulated and sealed building envelope; light-emitting diode (LED) lighting; water-saving fixtures and faucets; durable materials such as concrete flooring and tile tub surrounds; and ENERGY STAR® doors, windows, and heating and cooling equipment. The common areas incorporate drought-tolerant local plant species and two detention ponds to collect rainwater runoff.

To enhance residents’ well-being, PAHA and partner agencies provide numerous supportive services at Cedar Hills. Six units are set aside for special needs households, who are referred by the agencies. In addition to behavioral health and social services, Cedar Hills residents as well as other community members have access to life skills and employment programs offered in the community room, including financial literacy classes, workforce development training, and homeownership education.

Financing

The $7.6 million project relied almost completely on low-income housing tax credits that the state of New Mexico awarded in 2016, with PAHA providing $437,000 to ensure the project’s feasibility. “Historically, obtaining private equity to finance affordable housing in tribal communities has been challenging,” says Trent Rogers, project coordinator for Travois, because tribes often lacked access to private financial capital and may have had issues around the ownership and transfer of land for private development, which usually involve the additional expense of installing infrastructure (water, electricity, and sewer services) in remote rural areas. In addition, because Cedar Hills is PAHA’s first development using low-income housing tax credits, PAHA decided to use a consultant to guide it through the complicated financing program. In recognition of its use of tax credits to provide affordable housing for low-income households at Cedar Hills, PAHA received the 2018 Charles L. Edson Tax Credit Excellence Award for rural housing from the Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition.

Cedar Hills Inspires Additional Projects

Tortalita says that the community’s support for the project has been strong; more than 500 tribal members attended Cedar Hills’ opening ceremony, and the development reached full occupancy a month after opening and currently maintains a waiting list. Demand for similar affordable rental housing in the pueblo has encouraged PAHA to pursue additional developments, both rental and homeownership, to meet the needs of the community. Currently, PAHA is considering its second multifamily project using low-income housing tax credits. In addition, the Pueblo of Acoma’s Board of Commissioners passed a leasehold resolution that makes the tribe eligible for HUD’s Section 184 Indian Home Loan Guarantee program and other federal financing programs.


 

Source:

Document provided by Travois; Interview with Floyd Tortalita, executive director, Pueblo of Acoma Housing Authority, 17 April 2019; Correspondence from Trent Rogers, project coordinator, Travois, 23 April 2019; National Trust for Historic Preservation. n.d. “Acoma Sky City.” Accessed 12 May 2019; National Park Service. n.d. “Acoma Pueblo: Acoma, New Mexico.” Accessed 12 May 2019; Ashley Bland. 2018. “Tourism & Economic Development Planning – Case Studies,” American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association, 20th Annual American Indian Tourism Conference. Accessed 12 May 2019.

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Source:

Document provided by Travois; Interview with Floyd Tortalita, executive director, Pueblo of Acoma Housing Authority, 17 April 2019; Ashley Bland. 2018. “Tourism & Economic Development Planning — Case Studies,” American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association, 20th Annual American Indian Tourism Conference. Accessed 12 May 2019.

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Source:

Interview with Floyd Tortalita, 17 April 2019; Document provided by Travois; Ashley Bland. 2018. “Tourism & Economic Development Planning — Case Studies,” American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association, 20th Annual American Indian Tourism Conference. Accessed 12 May 2019.

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Source:

Interview with Floyd Tortalita, 17 April 2019; Document provided by Travois; Ashley Bland. 2018. “Tourism & Economic Development Planning — Case Studies,” American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association, 20th Annual American Indian Tourism Conference. Accessed 12 May 2019.

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Source:

Document provided by Travois; Interview with Floyd Tortalita, 17 April 2019.

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Source:

Document provided by Travois; Trent Rogers. 2017. “Groundbreaking for Pueblo of Acoma!” blog, 10 January. Accessed 13 May 2019; Correspondence from Trent Rogers, 23 and 30 April and 7 May 2019; Interview with Floyd Tortalita, 17 April 2019; Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition. n.d. “2018 Charles L. Edson Tax Credit Excellence Awards.” Accessed 13 May 2019.

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Source:

Interview with Floyd Tortalita, 17 April 2019; Document provided by the Pueblo of Acoma Housing Authority.

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