Because this loan fund was unable to find affordable housing to support, they are developing it.
On the Colville Reservation located in northeastern Washington, Ted Piccolo aims at building a minimum of one house per year.
Piccolo, the executive director of the Northwest Native Development Fund (NNDF), a CDFI focused on delivering education and Ipass online loans funding personal and small company loans in tribal communities, says, “Perhaps one year we’ll do two, depending on how it goes.” “At least ten new residences must be added to the inventory.”
That is something that the NNDF is now working on. The Upstream Housing Initiative was established in 2019 to fund and construct new dwellings. They finished the first pilot home earlier this year, a 1,500-square-foot, three-bedroom home which was then sold to a new couple. NNDF intends to use the funds to construct more dwellings.
Piccolo says, “We’re currently looking for property to develop another to attempt to get new residences into the market.”
Funding local developers
Along with actually developing cheap homes, the initiative also provides funding to local developers who want to build, restore, and flip homes or shelters. The NNDF invested $1 million in the project, intending to bring 10 to 15 new homeowners to the neighborhood who can afford homes in the $180,000 range.
Tackling the mortgage crisis
The shortage of affordable housing in the region is producing a mortgage crisis, which is deterring professionals such as nurses and teachers from relocating to the area.
“We have the funding; we have eligible folks that go out and get pre-approved for a home loan, but there’s nothing beyond that,” Piccolo adds.
Many of the available homes are outdated and in need of a lot of work, or they have manufactured homes, which many traditional lenders won’t finance for homeowners, according to Piccolo. He continues, “We want to fund manufactured housing in a way that doesn’t penalize or stigmatize anyone.”
Individual Development Accounts (IDAs), in which NNDF matches $4 for every $1 saved toward the purchase of a home or the start-up of a business, enable individuals in tribal communities to become homeowners.
Individuals must complete a free training program, which for homebuyers includes family budgeting, to get the funds, according to Piccolo.
“We aim to teach individuals the fundamentals of house purchase and budgeting,” he adds.
Financial literacy, marketing, QuickBooks, and “Indianpreneurship,” which covers the fundamentals of beginning a business, are among the other personal development courses available. Since its inception in 2008, the NNDF has hosted over 600 classes and workshops, as well as provided 250 loans totaling well over $14.4 million. They lent upwards of $3 million in 2021 alone.
How hard is it for tribal firms to get a loan?
Business development financing is also offered for tribal members in Washington and elsewhere. Piccolo claims that getting finance from regular lenders is difficult for any smaller businesses or startup, but it’s even more difficult for tribal firms.
“When you try conducting business on the reserve, a lot of financing institutions aren’t comfortable,” he says. Many people are unaware of the “trust status” of tribal land, which means the federal government holds the land in trust for the tribe’s use, or how using a house on the community as collateral works.
According to Piccolo, many of the NNDF-funded firms are in the fishing and logging industries. They supported, for example, a small-batch, handmade salmon processing business in Portland, Oregon, that works with Native fishermen.
The NNDF also contributed to the creation of The Bunkhouse Hotel in Jackson, Montana, to increase tourism in the area. A Colville tribe descendent purchased and saved a 50-year-old autobody shop in Electric City, Washington, thanks to the CDFI’s investment.
Another area of investment is consumer loans ranging from $500 to $6,000. Credit builder loans, employee loans to enable people to access funds without having to go to a payday loan lender, and “anti-payday loans” to pay off existing debt while also providing a one-time loan are examples of these.
NNDF works to establish wealthy, economically successful tribal communities through education, funding, and housing initiatives. Piccolo describes the group as “the little loan fund that could,” because they’ve always thought that no project is too huge or too complicated for them to manage as long as it benefits tribal people.
“It begins with the phrase, ‘Don’t say no.’ He says, “Let’s simply tell how.” “We believe the sky is the limit in terms of what we can do by bringing funding to our community.” That is, in fact, a driver. “We’re a catalyst for change in the neighborhood.”