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Affordable Housing Honoring Native American Cultural Values in Phoenix, Arizona

Photograph of the exterior of a 4-story apartment building with a sidewalk and desert landscaping in the foreground.The 74 affordable housing units at Cedar Crossing offer residents housing stability with attention to traditional Native American values. Credit: Mark Lipczynski Photography

Cedar Crossing, located about two miles north of downtown Phoenix, Arizona, is an affordable housing project developed by Native American Connections (NAC), a nonprofit organization providing behavioral health care, affordable housing, and community programs that honor Native American cultural ideals. Cedar Crossing opened in January 2016 and became a refuge for formerly homeless individuals and those at risk of becoming homeless, many of whom also suffer from drug and alcohol addiction or behavioral health challenges. To directly address the challenges these groups face, NAC also opened the Patina Wellness Center in July 2016. Colocated on the grounds of Cedar Crossing, the Patina Wellness Center draws on Native American traditions to improve clients’ quality of life. Although NAC serves a wide range of population groups, roughly half of the residents that NAC serves are of Native American descent.

Maintaining Housing Stability and Quality of Life

The plans to develop Cedar Crossing and the Patina Wellness Center arose out of the need to integrate health care and housing for the local Native American population, which was transitioning from a rural tribal setting to life in the Phoenix metropolitan area. NAC purchased the four-acre land parcel for the development in 2013, knowing that its central location would be ideal for multifamily housing. Because the parcel was larger than what NAC needed for its typical affordable housing project, the development team divided the land, building Cedar Crossing and the Patina Wellness Center alongside each other.

The 4-story Cedar Crossing housing development offers a total of 74 affordable, elevator-serviced units consisting of 14 studios, 21 one-bedroom apartments, 16 two-bedroom apartments, and 23 three-bedroom apartments for residents earning between 40 and 60 percent of the area median income. Developed within the Midtown Transit District, Cedar Crossing is within walking distance of public transportation, schools, shopping, employment opportunities, and event venues. As part of NAC’s commitment to sustainable practices, its properties adhere to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards such as high-density housing, drought-tolerant landscaping, and access to alternative modes of transportation such as biking. Cedar Crossing achieved LEED Platinum certification, and each unit has energy-saving appliances and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. These features lower tenants’ utility bills and the overall operating costs of the property in the long run, which is essential for supporting housing stability for the property and its residents, says Diana Yazzie Devine, president and chief executive officer of NAC.

Promoting traditional Native American healing practices and cultural values is another core element of NAC’s mission. As a 70-bed, LEED Silver-certified residential facility, the Patina Wellness Center treats men and women recovering from drug and alcohol abuse and mental health challenges through a 6-week program that helps clients overcome substance use; learn to communicate their feelings; identify healthy relationships; improve their focus on mind, body, and cultural traditions; and develop the social and technical skills needed for future employment. Each client is assigned a treatment team composed of a recovery coach, case manager, and a clinician. The recovery coach is someone who underwent a similar experience and can provide clients with daily guidance. The case manager coordinates care, discharge instructions, and housing and aftercare arrangements, and the clinician offers counseling for families and individuals. Native American traditional healing practices including drumming, art, singing, storytelling, talking circles, and sweat lodges are central to the recovery process at Patina. NAC also collaborated with 17 interdisciplinary graduate students from Arizona State University, who conducted interviews with community members to understand their vision for the area. The graduate students and Perlman Architects of Arizona designed the talking circle room, which incorporates traditional design elements that are important to the Native American community, such as light and nature. In addition to traditional healing practices, Patina provides onsite childcare services; nutritious meals; and tai chi, yoga, and other fitness classes that enable clients to focus on mind-body wellness.

Photograph of the talking circle room at the Patina Wellness Center that has several chairs arranged in a circle with a skylight and Native American art.Residents seeking healing from trauma, addiction, and other challenges meet several times a week in the Patina Wellness Center’s talking circle room. Credit: Todd Photography, Lyle Garry

Resident Services and Design

Cedar Crossing residents have access to recreational facilities, parenting classes, back-to-school health fairs, financial literacy classes, and tutoring. The nonsmoking, pet-friendly development is also equipped with internet access and modern finishes. NAC manages all its available housing units through a central waiting list for applicants who have been prequalified based on income and family size. In addition, depending on availability, clients who have completed treatment at Patina can move into Cedar Crossing. Cedar Crossing residents can also participate in Patina’s open self-help groups and other programs. As Devine says, NAC designs all its housing developments facing inward around an interior, secure courtyard to build a sense of community and social connection. This courtyard also provides a safe place for children to play. Devine emphasizes that NAC and the architects designed the housing and treatment center as one community, with a vision of designing not merely a building but instead a space for people to feel a sense of well-being. Perlman Architects of Arizona also worked with architects from Johnson Smitthipong & Rosamond Associates in Tucson, Arizona, who assisted with many of the design and healthcare license requirements for the Patina Wellness Center.

Financing Housing and Wellness

NAC financed the $17.6 million affordable housing development and the $7.6 million Patina Wellness Center through several public, private, and nonprofit sources, including the City of Phoenix Housing Department, Arizona Community Foundation, Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco Affordable Housing Program, Raza Development Fund, Gila River Indian Community, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Hickey Family Foundation, and Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust. Cedar Crossing was also financed in part using low-income housing tax equity issued by the Arizona Department of Housing and purchased by the National Equity Fund. In addition, Wells Fargo and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation provided long-term financing for the Patina Wellness Center and Cedar Crossing, respectively.

Preserving Values While Serving the Community

The development of Cedar Crossing demonstrates a commitment to serving the health and social needs of Native Americans by focusing on traditional practices for healing and well-being. Its emphasis on permanent housing in conjunction with wellness services garnered national attention. In 2016, Affordable Housing Finance magazine (AHF) selected Cedar Crossing as a finalist in the Special Needs category of its Readers’ Choice Awards. AHF chose 34 housing developments as finalists based on their community impact, ability to solve a challenge, and innovative design and financing. Cedar Crossing also received the Brian Mickelsen Housing Hero Award presented at the 2016 conference of the Arizona Department of Housing. Within 60 days of opening, Cedar Crossing was fully leased, demonstrating its high demand in the community. To continue to meet the growing demand for substance abuse and behavioral health treatment, NAC aims to replicate this model at other sites in Phoenix. Cedar Crossing offers people housing stability while also equipping them with the skills necessary to become contributing members of society.

Source:

Route Fifty. 2017. “2017 Navigator Award Finalists: Government Allies and Cross-Sector Partners.” Accessed 15 September 2017; Interview with Diana Yazzie Devine, president and chief executive officer of Native American Connections, 26 September 2017; Native American Connections. n.d. “Behavioral Health: Residential Treatment.” Accessed 15 September 2017; Donna Kimura. 2016. “Housing and Wellness Center Come Together in Phoenix,” Affordable Housing Finance, 1 July. Accessed 15 September 2017.

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Interview with Diana Yazzie Devine, president and chief executive officer of Native American Connections, 26 September 2017.

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Source:

Interview with Diana Yazzie Devine, 26 September 2017; Donna Kimura. 2016. “Housing and Wellness Center Come Together in Phoenix,” Affordable Housing Finance, 1 July. Accessed 15 September 2017; Native American Connections. 2016. “Cedar Crossing is Open for Leasing,” press release, 10 February. Accessed 15 September 2017; Native American Connections. n.d. “Cedar Crossing.” Accessed 15 September 2017; City of Phoenix. 2016. “Transit Oriented Development Annual Report: 2015–2016,” 16. Accessed 15 September 2017.

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Native American Connections. n.d. “Behavioral Health: Residential Treatment.” Accessed 15 September 2017; Native American Connections. n.d. “Indian Rehabilitation — 1972,” 15, 27, 32. Accessed 15 September 2017; Native American Connections. 2016. “Patina Wellness Center Video.” Accessed 25 September 2017; Route Fifty. 2017. “2017 Navigator Award Finalists: Government Allies and Cross-Sector Partners.” Accessed 15 September 2017; Local Initiatives Support Corporation. 2016. “Communities of Connection in the Valley of the Sun,” 4. Accessed 15 September 2017; Interview with Diana Yazzie Devine, 26 September 2017; Donna Kimura. 2016. “Housing and Wellness Center Come Together in Phoenix,” Affordable Housing Finance, 1 July. Accessed 15 September 2017.

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Source:

Native American Connections. n.d. “Cedar Crossing.” Accessed 15 September 2017; Interview with Diana Yazzie Devine, 26 September 2017; Donna Kimura. 2016. “Housing and Wellness Center Come Together in Phoenix,” Affordable Housing Finance, 1 July. Accessed 15 September 2017.

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Source:

Route Fifty. 2017. “2017 Navigator Award Finalists: Government Allies and Cross-Sector Partners.” Accessed 15 September 2017; Donna Kimura. 2016. “Housing and Wellness Center Come Together in Phoenix,” Affordable Housing Finance, 1 July. Accessed 15 September 2017; National Equity Fund. 2012. “About National Equity Fund.” Accessed 15 September 2017; Interview with Diana Yazzie Devine, 26 September 2017.

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Source:

Donna Kimura. 2016. “AHF Unveils 2016 Readers' Choice Award Finalists,” Affordable Housing Finance, 3 June. Accessed 15 September 2017; National Equity Fund. n.d. “Cedar Crossing Wins Brian Mickelsen Housing Hero Award.” Accessed 15 September 2017; Interview with Diana Yazzie Devine, 26 September 2017.

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