Pilot program brings in $4 million to fund mortgages on South Dakota reservations

SIOUX FALLS, SD (Dakota News Now) – A new program on several South Dakota reservations is providing the keys to financial stability for residents. Beth Warden shows us how local mortgage lenders with deep community ties are making a difference.

For those living on the Pine Ridge, Cheyenne River, or Standing Rock reservations, a new pilot program to ease the transition to homeownership is such a success. USDA Rural Development is adding more funding to reach even more families.

“What we do know is that homeownership in Native American communities is lower. And at the same time, it’s a way to lift families out of poverty,” says Nikki Gronli of the USDA Rural Development.

In 2018, a new development began to bridge the availability of mortgages on reservations.

Congress has authorized South Dakota to conduct this pilot program and loan to Four Bands of Eagle Butte and Mazaska of Pine Ridge,” Gronli said.

The program is experiencing growing success, with 20 units funded. Now it will offer even more.

“Four million dollars between the two organizations to help get 50 more Native American families into homes,” Gronli says.

Mortgages can match the family’s needs and budget.

“These may be existing houses. These may be new constructions. To build trust, they need to work with a local financial institution,” says Gronli.

And that’s where April Anderson of Four Bands Community Funds can help.

“And have a one-on-one conversation to help you get through the application process,” Anderson said.

The trip includes credit counseling, if needed, to establish a good score and qualify for a mortgage.

Anderson says those who get a mortgage usually come from living with family or possibly renting.

Those who facilitate the program as local lenders or with the USDA Rural Development Office find the process rewarding.

“It’s so exciting to know that you’re going to impact so many families here in South Dakota,” Gronli says.

“It’s theirs. It’s their keys. It’s their living room, every part of their house feels like this beautiful story that it’s finally becoming this success story as they envisioned it for the two-year journey they’ve been on, so they can make their dreams come true,” Anderson said.

The relationship between the lender and the owner continues after the sale, and this relationship works. Each owner is up to date with their mortgage payments and there has never been a default.

“In 2018, USDA loaned $1.6 million to the Four Bands Community Fund and Mazaska Owecaso Otipi Financial. Both NCDFIs have deep ties to local communities. Mazaska Owecaso Financial Otipi is located on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. It creates home ownership opportunities for members of the Oglala Sioux tribe. Four Band Community Fund, headquartered in Eagle Butte, SD, on the Cheyenne River Reservation, provides home loans and other financial products to businesses in South Dakota and North Dakota. Part of its service area includes the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota. The program has been so successful that another four million dollars are being added to the program,” said a USDA statement described.

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