Chickasaw Nation Celebrates Fiftieth Anniversary of Housing Authority
In 1966, three years after Overton James was appointed Governor of the Chickasaw Nation, the tribe created the Chickasaw Housing Authority. This February, the tribe celebrates 50 years of providing housing services to its citizens.
Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby said the housing authority served as a starting point for the wide range of housing services offered by the tribe.
"Establishing the housing authority was the first step in our efforts to help meet the housing needs of our citizens. Since then, housing has remained a high priority for the Chickasaw Nation, because high quality affordable housing is essential to enhancing the quality of life of the Chickasaw people," said Gov. Anoatubby. "Five decades later, the housing authority still plays an important role in our service to the Chickasaw people."
Some of the first families served by the housing authority lived in the small community of Fillmore in Johnston County. In 1967, fathers, mothers and children took part in the first mutual help homeownership program offered by the housing authority.
In order to take advantage of the opportunity, family members pitched in to help with construction. Those families were willing to invest their time and effort, often called sweat equity, in order to become homeowners. They cleaned, moved rubble, laid foundations, or performed other tasks as an in-kind down payment.
The housing authority was created under the Oklahoma Housing Authority Act of 1965. However, tribes were at something of a disadvantage in those early years, according to Wayne Scribner, Executive Director of the Chickasaw Housing Authority.
"Even though an Indian tribe could form a housing authority, you played by the public housing rules. You competed against all the bigger cities," said Mr. Scribner. "So we were in the same boat as big cities, in terms of gaining federal funds for housing. We were kind of a small fish in a big sea."
Nevertheless, the housing authority and the tribe developed several housing programs, including homeownership services and rental assistance for low-income residents. While there was a Chickasaw preference for services, the housing authority also served other low income residents of Oklahoma.
It wasn't until the Indian Housing Act of 1988 was passed that the needs of Native Americans were addressed more specifically.
Governor Anoatubby testified before the U.S. Congress on several aspects of that legislation, helping make it more effective in addressing the needs of Chickasaws, and all Native Americans in Oklahoma.
While that bill was a step forward, probably the most significant advance in housing services for Chickasaw people came in 1996, with passage of the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA).
Gov. Anoatubby served on the original negotiated rulemaking committee charged with developing regulations necessary to implement the legislation.
Under NAHASDA, the Chickasaw Nation assumed responsibility for the administration of housing services. While some tribes dissolved their housing authority after the passage of NAHASDA, the Chickasaw Nation chose to continue the housing authority.
"Passage of NAHASDA was a major milestone, because it allows more flexibility to tailor our housing programs to the specific needs of our citizens," said Gov. Anoatubby. "We believe it is important to listen to the people to better understand how we can best meet their needs."
Since NAHASDA was passed in 1996, the Chickasaw Nation has developed a number of new housing services in addition to homeownership and rental assistance for low-income families. Other services include homeownership counseling and home loan services, home maintenance and repair, as well as home improvement assistance, driveway construction and storm shelter installation.
Since 1966, the Chickasaw Nation has built more than 5,800 homes and currently offers more than 600 rental units to its citizens.
Today, homes are being built at a rate of about 25 per year, with approximately 40 homes per year being signed over in full ownership to families. The quality of the homes has steadily increased over time.
What hasn't changed is a family's desire for housing. Prospective homeowners are still willing to work toward earning a home of their own.
Jennie Mosely, who started thinking about the importance of owning a home in 2001, is one example. As a single mother, Mosely decided she needed a home for herself and her young son Ethan. At the time, she lived and worked in Anadarko, Oklahoma.
"I had just started my career... closing costs, down payments, it was a little overwhelming when I started thinking about the costs and what I needed to bring to the table."
She called the Chickasaw Nation and set up an appointment to meet with a loan officer, who gave Mosely all the information she needed to begin buying a home.
"It was so good to have a partner, a tribe to back me and help me over the hurdles of home ownership and the different things you might not anticipate when you become a homeowner," Mosely said.
More recently, after marrying her husband Palmer and moving to Ada, Mosely again began working to provide a safe and secure home for her growing family.
"I think your home is where everything starts," Mosely said. "You show pride in your home, you start your lives with your children in your home."
This time, working with the Chickasaw Nation, the Moselys planned and built their family home to their own specifications, with the intent to retire in the home.
They had the ability to choose the location and create the floor plan, which came in handy when the couple found out they were having a new child. With the news, the Moselys added another bedroom to accommodate the little one.
"Our opportunity was endless for what we wanted to do," Mosely said. "That feels, as a woman, empowering, and as a citizen, grateful because I didn't have to worry."