Teton Coalition: Serving the Underserved

The wall of the Teton Coalition office in Rapid City is filled with framed photos of families smiling at their new homes or signing purchase documents. "They work really hard to get to this point and it's very rewarding for them," said Leona Clubbs, Executive Director of the Teton Coalition.

Homeownership among Native Americans lags behind other ethnic groups. In the United States, homeownership among Native Americans is estimated to be about 33 percent, the lowest rate of any ethnic group according to the Enterprise Institute. The Teton Coalition hopes to narrow that gap.

For 20 years the nonprofit agency has been working to expand the availability of affordable housing in Rapid City and the surrounding area. The Coalition has been working with SDHDA to develop and build single-family homes for low- and moderate-income families. One route for many clients is to buy a Governor's House. The agency has placed a number of Governor's Houses in neighborhoods in and near Rapid City.

"Teton Coalition is creating a Rapid City where there will be no more homelessness, one homebuyer at a time," according to the Coalition's vision statement. "Through education and counseling, we envision a Rapid City where homebuyers with the means have control of their financial situations and credit scores in such a way that they can take advantage of all the opportunities available to them."

Tim Meek, Housing and Financial Counselor, said there's a need for homeownership among Native Americans and all low-income groups. "What we find is that people really don't have the financial background to meet the criteria to purchase a home," stated Meek. "Most banks would tell them they don't qualify. But with some help, they can become homeowners."

With many starter homes priced at $150,000, homeownership is difficult for many working families. The irony, according to Clubbs, is monthly mortgage payments are comparable to the amount they are already paying for rent. Sometimes a mortgage payment would be less than their rent. However, the up-front cost of buying a home, such as downpayment, appraisal fee and closing costs, keep families away from homeownership. Without an income cushion to let them save money, these families spend all of their money on day-to-day living expenses.

Teton Coalition offers programs to help provide downpayment and closing cost assistance. They also educate buyers about homeownership responsibilities covering topics such as home maintenance, repairs, insurance, taxes and lawn care.

Clubbs appreciates the work and commitment of SDHDA in helping groups such as hers develop affordable housing in the Rapid City area. "We have a lot of families who would not have gotten a home if not for South Dakota Housing," Clubbs said.