Guest Opinion. All families deserve to live in safety and dignity, without fear of losing their homes. During the economic uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, some Cherokee homeowners fell behind on their mortgages or slipped into financial hardship in order to make payments. To help make sure Cherokee families can stay in their homes, the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation is expanding the tribe’s Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) program.
Qualified homeowners can apply for forgivable loans through the HAF. The loans are fully funded with federal dollars as part of the American Rescue Plan. They can be used to cover delinquent mortgage payments, past-due home insurance premiums, past-due property taxes or other debts that could displace homeowners if left unpaid. Once approved, funding goes directly to the mortgage loan servicer. The financial relief program is already helping Cherokees find more stability and security in their homes.
The pandemic has taken a toll on many of our fellow Cherokees, increasing their physical, mental and financial stress. But it has also been an opportunity for all of us to join in the spirit of Gadugi, working together for the greater good. We know this program will directly impact hundreds of Cherokee families, while strengthening our communities and making positive generational impacts for everyone.
Cherokees throughout our reservation and neighboring areas have access to the tribe’s HAF program. The Housing Authority will prioritize homeowners located in counties comprising the reservation, which encompasses all or parts of 14 northeast Oklahoma counties. It will then expand to Cherokees who own homes in an Oklahoma, Kansas or Arkansas county that borders the Cherokee Nation Reservation. Availability is also based on household income earnings.
Previously, this program was open only to people with mortgages through Cherokee Nation or the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation, but now we are opening it for all Cherokee mortgage holders who meet the eligibility guidelines. The expanded Homeowner Assistance Fund will be available as long as funds last, which our housing experts estimate to be through 2026.
For more information and a complete list of eligibility guidelines, visit www.hacn.org/HAF or call 918-456-5482.
For some families, finding affordable housing is a long-term struggle that’s been exacerbated by the pandemic. We know the need for stable and safe housing is high, and it is going to remain that way as the economy adjusts.
Deputy Chief Bryan Warner, the Council and my administration have made housing a high priority with the landmark Housing, Jobs and Sustainable Communities Act in 2019, which was renewed and expanded earlier this year. HJSCA brought more than $120 million to meet various housing needs for the Cherokee people, the largest housing investment in history. More than that, HJSCA embedded in Cherokee Nation law that housing is among the highest priority of the Cherokee Nation. Setting that tone is what spurred programs such as the Homeowners Assistance Fund and what will spur many more ideas in the future.
The HAF is just one of several programs offered by Cherokee Nation to meet our citizens’ housing needs. Others include the New Construction Homeownership Program to create a path to homeownership for Cherokee families, housing repairs for elders and Cherokees with disabilities who need help maintaining their homes, emergency rental assistance, and more. A full list of programs can be found at the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation website, https://www.hacn.org/.
Chuck Hoskin, Jr. is the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.
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