UKB Housing Looking to Grow in 2019
QUAPAW – The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians Housing Department held a retreat September 21-22 at the Downstream Casino Resort to announce its plans for new housing projects, learn from industry professionals and improve their housing policies.
“We’re excited to let everyone know what we’ve been working on and how we plan to use our ideas to help our tribal members,” said Nancy McCause, Housing Department director.
The retreat was optimistic, with McCause and Assistant Housing Director Charles Deason informing attendees that next year’s Indian Housing Plan budget would total nearly $3.4 million. This is an increase from the $2.8 million reported for last year.
“We always had a good amount of money, but we didn’t know how to use it until we had some good people come along and point us in the right way,” said McCause. “We now have to sit down and plan how much will go into each program.”
According to Deason, the department has expanded from 11 programs in 2017 to 18 in just the span of a year.
“I guess I didn’t realize it at the time because we were right in the middle of it, but looking back at our policies that everybody has talked about this weekend, we’ve come a long way,” said Deason. “We had about the same amount of money, but it wasn’t being dispersed among all the programs. Then at some point there was a change and there was a modification made to the Indian Housing Plan, which added to it and was approved by Tribal Council.”
The department has bought new software and has several upcoming projects including soliciting bids for the Elder Home Project and a replacement home, as well as finalizing plans for new office space and a departmental warehouse to store construction materials.
The department has also had some successful land acquisitions, including closing on a five-acre property in Tahlequah that will soon go before the city planner to approve housing units.
“The original plan was to put 20 homes on that five acres. That’s still kind of the plan, but we may scale it back a little bit and give the lots a little bit bigger size for maybe 15 homes,” said Deason. “The homes will be two to three bedroom homes, just a standard house. We’re looking at different house plans and have about three different plans to maybe build every other one a separate way.”
The retreat also featured guest speakers Amanda Proctor and Tom S. McGeisey.
“I’m very honored to be here and appreciate the invitation to talk about housing and how a department should be organized and how it should function, as well as how the policies should function to create a system where we can bring the most service to the people,” said Proctor.
She is currently the attorney for the UKB Housing Department and has more than 20 years of experience. Proctor has been working with the UKB Housing Department since they underwent a reorganization in September 2017. During the retreat she offered recommendations on how to strengthen policies for programs including the College Rental Assistance program, the Housing Rehabilitation Assistance program and the Down Payment program.
McGeisey, the current deputy director for the Peoria Tribe of Oklahoma Housing Authority, also had advice for the group on topics including tax credits and departmental flow.
He recommended that the Housing Department implement an organizational flow chart to better define their roles and establish a “good internal control policy” when managing job duties and how money is transacted.
During his presentation he also brought up “creative” ways to think of housing that could meet tribal member needs including transitional housing, domestic violence shelters and halfway houses.
“You have the opportunity to be creative,” he said. “You can do lots of things with housing and be as creative as you can as long as it’s not out of compliance. Learn all you can and can all you learn.”
Housing Inspector Richard Vann and Occupancy Specialist Amanda Mink were also recognized for their work with a safety and crime prevention grant that was selected by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development to be featured in Washington D.C.
The weekend’s activities wrapped with the Housing Department thanking Interim Executive Director of Tribal Operations Sean Nordwall for his leadership.
“Thank you for all your advice. He brings so much to the table and I truly appreciate that. He thinks ahead. He knows what he’s doing and I just really appreciate all the leadership he gives,” said McCause.
Nordwall sent the praise right back.
“We’re doing a lot of stuff for a lot of people that can’t do for themselves. It’s important for our tribe. It’s important for our people. I appreciate all you have done, because you have done a lot and you guys deserve all the accolades.”