Visiting the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians: An organized community of determination (Part 2 of 2)

The principle — “Whoever defines the situation, controls the outcome” — is a go-to saying in the field of community organizing. The underlying value within this dictum is self-determination. I recently saw this principle in action.

The Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians, like so many other Native communities across the country, has an extensive waiting list for affordable housing. Travois works with sovereign nations to achieve the vision they have for their land and community.

When necessary, Travois also organizes right alongside our tribal partners, especially when a tribe’s vision is threatened, as was the case for the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians.

Elizabeth Glynn, Travois CEO, and Marie Allen, project coordinator, worked with the leadership of Coyote Valley to win the affordable housing tax credits that were initially denied because of a requirement in California’s Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP) that created an undue burden for tribal developers.

State allocating agencies — the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee (CTCAC) in California — set priorities, write the QAP with input from the public, and then award tax credits based on those rules.

Travois advocated for nearly 15 years in California to help tribes access Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTCs). California is the state with the highest population of people and therefore, the most available tax credits. In 2014, 18 years after the LIHTC program was created, California finally awarded its first tribal project.

Since that time, the Native American apportionment has allowed tribes to access the LIHTC program, but CTCAC typically only funds one project per year. In Coyote Valley’s case, CTCAC staff initially ruled the project as ineligible to compete in the Native American apportionment (based on the aforementioned requirement), a determination that was eventually overruled through the state’s appeals process.

CTCAC awarded a 2017 allocation of $1,815,642 in federal tax credits for the 49-unit Coyote Valley Homes I development. CTCAC recognized that the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians knew where they wanted to go for their community, had defined the situation of their housing need brilliantly, and were fully qualified to control their own outcome.

This victory is significant. I applaud the Coyote Valley Tribal Council and its allies — especially Ceiba Legal, whose legal arguments were invaluable in the appeal effort — along with support from True North Organizing Network. Chairman Michael Hunter and the band’s long legacy of leadership paved the way for this important victory. 

We’re thrilled the development is moving forward! It will rehabilitate 21 housing units and build 28 new homes and a community building on the Coyote Valley Reservation in Redwood Valley, CA.

Our Travois Design team has been hard at work finalizing the plans and architectural designs for the homes and community building. Construction will begin this fall.

Check out the beautiful designs below.

The units will be two-, three-, and four-bedroom single-family homes and duplexes and all will be equipped with solar panels. In addition to using investor equity from the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program, the development will be partially funded using Renewable Energy Tax Credits.

The new homes will help the band improve existing housing and provide more housing options for households on its waiting list. After the homes are complete, tribal members who have moved off the reservation due to lack of housing will have the opportunity to return.

Like Coyote Valley, other American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities across the country are defining a reality that protects earth and water, supports families, and is led by the people most impacted.

Congratulations, Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians, on naming your destination despite the odds, and acting from the legacy power you have within your leadership.