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Ute Mountain Utes receive $871,000 housing grant

Ute tribe pursuing additional projects
A grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs will bring 12 units of workforce housing to the town of Silverton. The units are “desperately needed,” said Town Administrator Bill Gardner.

The Ute Mountain Ute tribe will get $871,000 to help fight homelessness with the South Towaoc Permanent Supportive Housing project.

The money is part of $9 million in grants that the state Department of Local Affairs Division of Housing set aside for eight affordable-housing projects in Colorado.

The Ute Mountain Housing Authority project will include 11 single-bedroom apartments in Towaoc for tribal members, the homeless, those at risk of becoming homeless and people earning less than 30 percent of the area median income.

Vouchers will be offered for tribal members, said Ute Mountain Housing Authority Director JoAnn Lemon. The modular building will be constructed in Texas and transported to Southwest Colorado.

“It feels great,” Lemon said. “I hope we open some doors, because we’re not through.”

Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs Executive Director Ernest House, Jr. said it’s the first such partnership between the tribe and the state.

“We want to thank DOLA and the tribal staff for working on the project,” said House, who is a member of the Ute Mountain Ute tribe. “It’s a great opportunity, and it’s the first-ever housing project like this built on tribal land in the state.”

Ute Mountain Ute tribe Chairman Manuel Heart said partnerships between the state and the tribe will be key moving forward.

“I want to say thank you to the state for helping us with this partnership, and to our housing department who advocated for this and are working for the future of our membership,” he said.

The tribal council’s top four priorities are housing, education, healthcare and economic development, Heart said. There is a shortage of housing on the reservation, he said. The tribe has about 2,200 enrolled members, but there are only 500 homes in Towaoc, and they are mostly rental units. Multiple families are living in single dwellings, and there are many older homes, he said.

The tribe also is pursuing projects that could bring an additional 16 units to Towaoc, Heart said. A federal Indian Community Development Block Grant could bring eight manufactured homes, and the tribe has invested in a revolving account that could fund an another eight, he said.

“It’s something we’ve been working on,” the chairman said. “We do have a shortage of homes in Towaoc.”

The housing project also will provide supportive services such as behavioral health and counseling services, Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne said in a news release.

“We are excited that this project will be the first supportive housing project for a tribal entity on tribal land,” Lynne said. “Our government-to-government relationship both respects tribal sovereignty and allows us to focus on issues pertaining to all citizens of Colorado including our oldest and first inhabitants.”

Part of the $9 million in grants from Colorado Department of Local Affairs Division of Housing also will toward workforce housing in Silverton. The state announced that the San Juan County town has received a $305,430 for the 12-unit Anvil Mountain Apartments, which will serve households earning at or below 30 percent to 120 percent of area’s median income.

“We have no rental workforce housing, and it’s crippling the community,” Town Administrator Bill Gardner said.

The Durango Herald contributed to this article.