Hopi housing summit a success

Working together to build homes

KYKOTSMOVI-- More than 600 Hopi people joined village and tribal leaders, state and federal officials and others last week at the first annual Hopi Housing Summit, an event aimed at creating affordable, quality housing to the Hopi Homeland.

"We were very pleased with the turnout," said Romalita Laban, property manager for Walpi Housing Management, co-sponsor of the event with Hopi Tribal Housing Authority and Community Planning and Economic Development. "We've received positive feedback É and encouragement to hold another summit."

The summit, titled "Working Together to Build Homes," drew Hopi citizens, tribal, local, state and federal housing officials, utility companies and homebuilders and contractors.

The event was held Sept. 27 and 28 at the Hopi Veterans Memorial Center, where booths were set up to inform Hopi citizens of state and federal home loan opportunities and other programs and vendors to help Hopi men and women maintain, repair their existing houses and build new homes.

"We come together today -- Hopi people, members of tribal and village government, state and federal officials, businessmen and businesswomen -- to combine our resources -- our many skills and talents and knowledge -- to bring quality, affordable housing to the Hopi homeland," tribal Chairman Wayne Taylor Jr. said in his opening address to summit attendees.

The need for housing on the Hopi Reservation is "dire," Taylor said. The Hopi Tribal Housing Authority's 2005 Indian Housing Plan reported there was a demand for 1,436 affordable housing units for the Hopi people. Many of the existing homes are in serious disrepair.

The figures do not include the housing demands of non-Hopi citizens who live and work on the reservation.

"The need for adequate, affordable housing must be met if the Hopi Tribe hopes to build the foundation necessary to create an economically viable homeland for future generations," Taylor said.

"The need for adequate, affordable housing must be met if we hope to keep our young men and women from leaving the reservation to seek opportunity elsewhere," Taylor said, "taking with them children who may never learn to speak the Hopi language or participate in Hopi ceremonies.

"The need for adequate, affordable housing must be met," Taylor said, "if we hope to prevent the erosion of our culture, our traditions and the Hopi way of life."

Sheila Harris, director, Arizona Department of Housing, and Fred Karnas, Policy advisor, for Urban Affairs and Community Development for Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, also delivered keynote speeches.

Harris discussed the governor's tribal housing initiatives, which includes efforts to increase mortgage loan guarantee and insurance programs in Indian Country.

Harris' office also awarded $860,000 in emergency funds to Mojave County and the Hopi Tribe to repair homes damaged in the February storms. The Hopi Tribe received $500,000 of the money.

Karnas lauded Hopi efforts to not only spur home construction, but improve conditions in the villages.

"I have learned that one cannot talk about housing in a vacuum," Karnas said. "Housing is tied to so many other issues in our lives, like health care, education, employment and transportation. And I have also learned that without safe affordable housing, those other things can have limited success.

"I want to commend you for your efforts to take a hard look at the housing needs of this community and what can be done and I want to encourage you to do that thinking in the context of all of the other key elements that make up community."

Royce Jenkins, director of the Hopi Office of Community Planning and Economic development, said the summit was both a success and an event that was "long overdue."

"Housing is needed not only on the Hopi Reservation, but all across Indian Country," Jenkins said. "Tribes and Indian nations are at the bottom when it comes to social needs, including housing.

"This summit brought together local, state and federal leadership to address our housing needs. What's important now is for our leadership to make the recommendations a reality. The villages will play a major role in making that possible."

There were panel discussions on HUD housing programs, financing and leveraging new homes, land acquisition, modernizing existing homes, homeowners insurance and a number of other issues.

More than 50 sponsors and an equal number of agencies and companies participated in the summit.

(This article was provided by the Hopi News Service/The Hopi Tribe.)

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