CLAREMORE, Okla. - Cherokee Nation Principal Chief-Elect Chuck Hoskin Jr. announced Thursday a $30 million plan that will repair hundreds of Cherokee homes, remodel community buildings and create construction jobs all across northeastern Oklahoma.
The Housing, Jobs and Sustainable Communities Act of 2019 is part of Chief-Elect Hoskin’s first 100 days of office initiatives. Hoskin officially becomes Principal Chief on Aug. 14.
“We are focused on improving communities at the grassroots level within the Cherokee Nation. That means investing in our citizens’ homes and the community buildings where Cherokees gather,” Chief-Elect Hoskin said. “The improvements mean our most vulnerable citizens, including low-income elderly and disabled Cherokees, can get the help they need after waiting sometimes years for assistance. Additionally, investing in our community buildings means state-of-the-art improvements, including solar power and other energy saving measures, to the places where many of our citizens of all ages gather.”
Additionally, the housing rehab construction will create a wide array of jobs for contractors, and those dollars will have a significant multiplier effect in local communities as goods and services are purchased. This strategic endeavor is forward-thinking and will add to Cherokee Nation’s continued investment in northeastern Oklahoma, Chief-Elect Hoskin said.
The Cherokee Nation currently has 668 low-income Cherokee families needing housing rehabilitation, which includes the need for new roofs, HVAC, electrical, plumbing, wheel chair ramps or removing environmental hazards such as lead. More than 400 on the list are Cherokee elders or citizens with disabilities.
Lola McKinzie, 73, a widow, was threatened by her insurance company, which wanted to drop coverage on her 1960s era home if she didn’t get a new roof. This week the tribe finished putting a new roof on her quaint Claremore home.
“I got on the waiting list over a year ago hoping the tribe could help. The last time my air condition went out I had to hold three garage sales to get money to fix it,” McKinzie said. “There are a lot of Cherokee citizens who need home repairs, so the tribe having programs like this and more funds to do it, is marvelous.”
In Delaware County, Bonnie Sixkiller Wells said her mother Betty, 81, waited several years to get a replacement home built just off the highway in Leach. Her mother’s floors were buckling and the Cherokee elder had leaks and wiring problems. The need is great, she said.
“Having $30 million will help so many of our Cherokee elders meet their housing needs. This will be a great program and help so many communities,” Wells said. “This alleviates so many worries.”
Under the Housing, Jobs and Sustainable Communities Act, 75 percent of the $30 million will help Cherokee citizens with housing repairs. Another 25 percent will be earmarked to upgrade Cherokee community buildings with connectivity and sustainability projects such as solar power, HVAC systems and wi-fi.
District 7 Councilor of the Cherokee Nation Canaan Duncan, of Stilwell, is a sponsor of the legislative act and said the impact the act will have on Cherokee families and communities will be immeasurable.
“This infusion of funds to rehab Cherokee homes and repair community buildings is something that has been needed for some time now. I am so proud to be able to work with Chief-Elect Hoskin on this legislation as it will give Cherokee Nation citizens and communities the hand up they need to live in safe and healthy homes as well as have the best community gathering places possible,” Duncan said.
Funding will come primarily from a $30 million special dividend issued by Cherokee Nation Businesses over three years at Chief-Elect Hoskin’s request.
The act will now go before the Council of the Cherokee Nation.
Number of families currently needing housing rehabilitation, by county:
• Adair, 110
• Cherokee, 117
• Craig, 19
• Delaware, 86
• McIntosh, 3
• Mayes, 58
• Muskogee, 35
• Nowata, 15
• Ottawa, 7
• Rogers, 35
• Sequoyah, 112
• Tulsa, 36
• Wagoner, 10
• Washington, 25