In 2022, construction costs hit a 50-year high with a 17.5% year-over-year increase. With rising inflation, labor shortages, and supply chain issues continuing to disrupt markets, the forecast for 2023 isn’t much better. The impact of these trends is intensified in Native American communities where housing shortages regularly force multiple families into single-family homes.
“There isn’t really a real estate market on Indian reservations in South Dakota, so if a family wants a home of their own, they have to build from the ground up,” says Shayna Ferguson, Branch Manager of the Lakota Federal Credit Union.
She says most people choose pre-manufactured homes for a number of reasons. First, there just aren’t many general contractors available to build traditional stick-built homes. In addition, manufactured homes are more appealing because they have a lower price point and a shorter lead time.
“Even though they are considered a less expensive option, the price of manufactured homes has skyrocketed. The rising costs of labor and raw materials all factor into that and create barriers to homeownership, especially in low-income communities where every dollar matters,” explains Ferguson.
In order to alleviate some of those barriers and make homeownership accessible for more people, the Lakota Federal Credit Union has doubled the maximum amount of their construction loan. They have also increased the lending limit on their traditional mortgage product.
“We understand the economic realities that exist in the communities we serve, and we are designing our products to meet people’s needs. We have more flexibility in the terms we offer, so our community members are often surprised that homeownership could really be a possibility for them,” says Ferguson.
As a member of the South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition, the Credit Union is also helping to develop and implement longer-term strategies that will increase Native American homeownership rates. The Coalition was awarded a $5 million grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) Good Jobs Challenge to address the housing shortage on South Dakota’s reservations.
“The project is taking a holistic approach to develop sustainable systems where families can access safe and affordable housing. We’re looking at this from all angles –building the capacity of our contractors so they can grow and meet demand, creating a workforce in the skilled trades, and even increasing the number of building inspectors and appraisers who are able to serve reservation communities,” states Tawney Brunsch, Board Member of the Coalition.
Brunsch explains that the project was designed to strategically address roadblocks that borrowers, lenders, and contractors in Native American communities regularly face.
“With support from our members and partners, we’re getting all of the right players in the right places to build up the residential construction industry and ultimately eliminate the housing shortages that Native American people have been dealing with for far too long,” says Brunsch.