Sokaogon Chippewa Community News

Housing Authority is Busy Year-Round

The Sokaogon Chippewa Housing Authority is always busy with maintenance to keep up with normal wear and tear, to make emergency repairs, to renovate vacant units and to complete annual inspections when leases are renewed. In the winter, they have additional work that includes plowing driveways and parking spaces, and handling any heating issues.

“We manage 137 units, and all need something done,” said Joe Kane, Housing Director.

It can be a real juggling act. This day the Housing Maintenance team was tasked with cleaning up one of the studio apartments across from the C-Store on Highway 55.

“It took three coats of paint for this unit,” said Jim Smith, Maintenance. “Some units, especially those of people who smoke, can take as many as 10 coats.” Not only did they paint the unit, they bleached and shined all the floors, put in a new refrigerator, and cleaned everything so that it looked nearly new.

“We need to remind people to pull out their stoves and refrigerators to clean behind them twice a year,” Jim said. It is also important to leave enough room behind the refrigerator to allow the heat from the coils to dissipate.

Chrissy Weber, Tax Credit Compliance Coordinator, was there to take a look before she qualifies a new tenant for that unit. “We generally don’t have a problem filling the units,” she said. She noted that when the building first opened in 2016, it took a little time to find tenants, but now it is nearly always fully rented. A former motel, it was completely renovated and expanded to now offer 24 studio apartments, one of which is occupied by the Resident Manager.

Chrissy said that it is important to match the unit to the person, and that the units meet a real need for low-income, single people. “For example, it is not appropriate to place a single person into a three-bedroom house.”

The former motel is one of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) developments in Mole Lake, and the least expensive. Many of the units are also handicapped-accessible, and rent is 10% of a person’s gross income, or $200 maximum for individuals who meet income qualifications.

Income qualifications vary and consider factors such as family size, housing unit size and the type of funding for that particular unit. Much of the subsidized housing in Mole Lake are low-rent units, which have different income and rent requirements. Chrissy added that all Housing Department tenants pay their own utilities.

These requirements are set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), but each Tribe has the flexibility under the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act of 1996 (NAHASDA) to set its own rent levels, which can be lower than that mandated for subsidized housing off-reservation.

There is always a need for more housing, and Joe said that he is hoping that a NAHASDA grant for 10 new two- and three-bedroom homes will be approved soon, perhaps by January. He says there is a real need in the community for smaller homes for the elderly and the disabled that are Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant. “These will be maintenance friendly, single-story, ranch-style homes.”

He explained that there is always a long waiting list for new housing, and there are more than 20 families on the list at this time. The wait can be six to eight months, depending on family size and other factors.

“We have Elders who are still independent and don’t want to go to a (assisted living or nursing home) complex, young families with no kids and others who need a smaller unit,” Joe continued. He hopes the new grant, if approved, will help meet this need.

The Housing Department is also making some changes to their offices, which at one time was the Tribal Administration building. The building dates to the 1970s and needs updating. Remodeling includes adding internal access to the furnace room and closing off the open conference area to create an entry and waiting area. Joe noted that not only will it improve ventilation, the improvements will improve privacy and security.