ON government officials pursuing low-income housing addition near Skiatook

The Osage Nation Housing Department is developing plans to build a housing project near Skiatook for eligible Osage and non-Osage Native Americans based on their household incomes.

During its third special session, the Third ON Congress unanimously approved a $750,000 appropriation bill to send into the Nation’s capital asset and improvement fund to purchase land for the project. The appropriation bill for the land acquisition is ONCA 13-05 sponsored by William “Kugee” Supernaw.

On Dec. 3, Supernaw requested officials from the Executive Branch to meet with the Congressional Committee on Governmental Operations to share details on the project as the committee considered the bill. The specific location of the project wasn’t shared during the public portion of the meeting. The committee went into an executive session later during the meeting to discuss the land purchase portion of the project.

During the public meeting, Housing Director Andrea Kemble said her department is interested in developing the housing project, which would comprise 25-28 houses at first. “The purpose of this request is to create a housing addition, to create and develop some low-rent income units in the Skiatook area,” she told the committee.

Citing statistical data from her office, Kemble said there is a housing demand in the Skiatook area from Osages who live there for work and school. She also said: “the Skiatook area doesn’t currently offer any income-based housing opportunities.”

According to her research, Kemble said the fair market rate in the Skiatook area for a three-bedroom home is $975 per month, which leaves families struggling if they’re low-income.

Although the tribal funding request is to purchase land for the housing addition, Kemble said the houses would be built with federal grant funding awarded to the Nation. “We’ve collaborated some funding from different grants,” she said, adding the Nation plans to use seven federal grant sources totaling about $5.4 million for the construction.

Kemble said the Nation already has construction plans for the homes to be built at different sizes with three-, four- and five-bedrooms. Preliminary plans call for the housing to be available to Native Americans – with Osage preference – as rental units with a later option to purchase the homes, she said. The prospective residents will be subject to credit checks and must be below the federal threshold for low-income households depending on household size, she said.

Kemble said her office has about 35 Osage households currently on the waiting list for housing opportunities. She said 60 percent of those applicants said they would prefer living in the Skiatook area.

Bruce Cass, director of the Tribal Development and Land Acquisition Department, did not specify the exact location of the land being sought for the housing addition, but said the land tract comprises 60 acres and could accommodate up to 50 housing lots.

Cass said the land size would leave room for later development whether it’s for residential, recreation or tribal government use.

Cass also added the land is outside the Skiatook city limits. The committee then entered into executive session with Cass to further discuss the land purchase and proprietary issues of the project. Afterward, the committee voted to pass ONCA 13-05 onto the Congress for a final vote.

No timeline or target dates were specified during the meeting in terms of when the land purchase would be completed and when housing construction could begin.

On Dec. 5, Congress unanimously approved ONCA 13-05 and Principal Chief John Red Eagle signed the bill into law the next day.