New homes ease Hoonah crunch

Some families doubled up in houses

Posted: Wednesday, September 06, 2000

Jolene Smith finally has a room of her own.

Smith and her two daughters were among 18 families to move into a new Tlingit and Haida Regional Housing Authority project in Hoonah last week.

Smith had been living in her father's home, where she and her daughters shared a single bedroom. That wasn't unusual in Hoonah, where people have few housing options, said Tlingit and Haida rental program supervisor Kari Metz.

"A lot of the families that I had that were moving to the new rentals were living two or three to one house," Metz said. "They were doubled up and tripled up."

Some of them were paying about $900 a month, plus utilities.

"It could be up to half of their monthly income, which by the time they paid their rent and their monthly utilities there wasn't a whole lot left over," Metz said.

A week ago Smith moved into a new home built by Tlingit and Haida with $3 million from the Housing and Urban Development Office of Native American Programs and the Alaska Housing Finance Corp.

Since 1986, new funding at HUD allows tribes to have a little more leeway to build subsidized housing that fits the environment. In Arizona they build homes to look like the traditional adobe, but in Hoonah the money was used for covered porches, paved driveways and energy efficient construction.

Smith and the other families that moved in were chosen from about 30 applicants for the 20 homes by a three-person selection committee. Two families are still being selected. To qualify, families had to make less than 80 percent of the median income for Hoonah and live in Hoonah. Preference was given to families that were homeless, living in overcrowded conditions or included honorably discharged U.S. military veterans.

"All of the families selected to live in the new rentals had been living in substandard housing or in overcrowded conditions," said Metz, who helped them move last Wednesday. "Move-ins are always a really good time. I have everything from huge smiles to people just crying and weeping because they're just so happy."

Rents for the two-, three- and four-bedroom homes are set at 30 percent of the residents' income.

Now that Smith is in a home she can afford, she said she believes she will be able to reach her goal of becoming a legal secretary or drafting technician.

Tlingit and Haida Regional Housing is one of the largest providers of affordable housing in Southeast Alaska, owning and operating 212 low-rent units.

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