This is the second part of an interview with Linda McGraw-Adams, assistant executive director of the Red Lake Reservation Housing Authority of Red Lake, MN.
Q: Why is more housing needed in the communities of Red Lake?
A: We’re working all the time and leveraging our block grant any which way we can to get more housing here. We do have a very young population. A lot of the 18- to 20-year-olds are looking for housing, coming out of mom and dad’s house or grandpa’s house. We’re always working to get more housing. I think that you’d find that in any housing authority. Our average median age on our reservation is 23.
The housing authority waiting list is at about 318. We tell people it could be two to three years until a house is available… Three years is probably the longest someone has waited.
Q: Why is the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program important to Red Lake?
A: The homes are worth between $125,000-150,000. After all is said and done, you [the tenants] are going to be paying less than $50,000 [to own the homes after the mandatory compliance period of 15 years]. This is a wonderful program for you if you wish to follow the rules. [The tenants] think that is a very good deal.
Q: Can you share a story of a family whose lives were helped by having the opportunity to live in one of these homes?
A: One family moved into Red Lake 3. The mother would come to the housing meetings. She was couch-hopping from place to place with her two children. She would come in and say ‘My children and doing well in school, but it’s getting harder and harder because we’re staying with a family who works graveyard shifts.’ Her children were sleeping in the living room of a house and had trouble with the people coming and going during the night. The mother was a college student and was really close to finishing her degree. Finally we had an opening in Red Lake 3. She had been really faithful about keeping her application current [with the Red Lake Housing Authority]. We were able to get her a house in Red Lake 3. She has fixed her house up, finished her degree and is working at a school. Her daughter ended up being the valedictorian of her high school class. When I see her, she always says how she loves her house.
And then we have another single mom. She was living and renting in Bemidji. She had been on the waiting list for approximately 5 years. The house she was living in was sold by her landlord and she had 10 days to move. We were able to work with the housing commissioners, and she was able to move into a two-bedroom house. It was a squeeze. She ended up getting a job at New Beginnings in Redby. [New Beginnings is an organization that helps people learn job skills and seek employment]. When we were doing Red Lake Homes 9, she applied and came to meetings and was selected. She was able to get in there [into a bigger three-bedroom home]. She still works with families who are in need. Her children are growing. Her two youngest are juniors. She has flower beds and fills her window boxes with beautiful flowers.
These two families were in a bad spot at one time, and now they’re doing well. They are successful members of our community. And I like to think that we have been a little part of that.