JAY, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation is partnering with Jay Public Schools to acquire 10 acres of school property to build affordable homes for tribal citizens.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Jay Public Schools board of education and Superintendent Leann Barnwell on Friday agreeing the school district land will be donated to the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation.
In turn, Cherokee Nation will build affordable homes for tribal citizens as part of the Administration and Council’s $120 Million Housing, Jobs and Sustainable Communities Act.
“Homeownership and affordable housing lays a stronger foundation for our Cherokee families to thrive, and we know the families who own these homes have children attending Jay Public Schools, so this agreement is a partnership that helps not only our citizens but the school district as well,” Chief Hoskin said. “Jay Public Schools can also draw federal impact aid dollars and utilize the community center and outdoor recreation space which helps every student in the district.”
The project is still in the planning phase, but Cherokee Nation expects to build up to 20 homes on the property. Pending applicants on the Housing Authority’s New Construction Home Ownership Program will be given first priority to apply for the new homes.
In the second phase, the tribe will also build a community center and outdoor recreation space on the 10 acres.
“Jay Public Schools and the Board of Education are grateful for this partnership. Chief Hoskin and his team at Cherokee Nation have been outstanding to work with through this process. They truly are making a positive difference in the lives of many Cherokees,” Jay Public Schools Superintendent Leann Barnwell said. “This opportunity is awesome for Jay School District and our Jay community by providing much-needed housing for our Cherokee citizens and our students. By having Cherokee housing in our school district, it enables our district to receive federal dollars for students living in these homes, as well as providing them a safe place to live. The Cherokee Nation is also assisting us with some infrastructure issues, as well as assisting with some enhancements on our campus. Therefore, we believe this is a win for everyone involved. At Jay Public Schools we believe that 'Together We Can Make a Difference' and this partnership is going to make a difference and impact many lives.”
Under the MOU, Cherokee Nation will assist in modernizing a wastewater system that serves the school and make other improvements, such as helping fund a pavilion.
“We know the Jay School system has over 600 Cherokee children attending, and their families need more affordable housing options available in the community. This partnership allows us to serve our people and help the entire community which is what the Cherokee Nation is all about,” Deputy Chief Bryan Warner said.
The property is the site of Jay Public Schools' football field, which is being replaced at a new location as part of a school bond.
Chief Hoskin expects construction to begin on the housing project by the fall of 2023, depending on when Jay Public Schools is able to vacate the existing property.
“It is important for the community to know that we don’t want to do anything that interferes with Jay’s athletics program,” said Chief Hoskin. “We understand the school will construct a new football facility as soon as possible and we will work with the school to ensure the existing facility remains available for use until that time comes.”
At the MOU signing, Chief Hoskin praised local Council of the Cherokee Nation members Mike Shambaugh of District 9 and Melvina Shotpouch of District 10 for advocating for housing in the region.
“This is my home community, and new infrastructure that benefits the City of Jay, school system and Cherokee Nation brings jobs, prosperity and transforms lives for our families who are new homeowners,” said Councilor Shambaugh, Speaker of the Council. “This partnership is a win all the way around and I can’t wait to see this new neighborhood coming to Jay.”