‘Once in a lifetime funding’: Bering Strait region villages receive federal money to address housing shortages
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - For prospective homebuyers in the Northwest Alaska village of St. Michael — with just 427 residents — a cluster of gravel pads represents hope.
Soon the 26 gravel pads will serve as the foundation for tiny homes this year after they were able to secure $1,035,000 through the Indian Community Development Block Grant Program.
“We were just so excited we started crying, because this has been such a long elongated issue,” Bering Straits Tribal Administrator and private consultant Hattie Keller said. “We cannot believe this coming to reality.”
She added that the tiny homes in St. Michael will be targeted for low-income to moderate-income households along with elders, and said that the new homes will increase the communities house stock by 29%.
Overall, the Bering Straits Region received $5,175,000 in federal funding to address the housing crisis for its communities, and plans to build 42 homes in addition to the 26 in St. Michael. Newly constructed homes are planned for Brevig Mission, Diomede, King Island, and Savoonga.
“This is once in a lifetime funding, so we will never ever see this type of funding come out again and I think it’s really important for tribes to utilize all of this funding,” Keller said.
In September, the McDowell Group performed a community needs assessment for the Bering Straits Region and found 89% of homes were built prior to 2000, and 45% prior to 1980. That assessment also found that 30% of the homes are considered overcrowded and 14% are severely overcrowded with some having 15 people in one household.
The needs assessment also found the high cost of living and housing to be the top challenges for their community ahead of substance abuse, lack of cultural-based activities, and lack of treatment for mental illness.
A complete look at the federal grant money communities across Alaska received can be found here.
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