MISSION - Creating a means for members of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation to own a home on the reservation is the over-arching goal of the Umatilla Reservation Housing Authority. Recently, the URHA's Homeownership Program earned national recognition for those efforts.
Pamela Ranslam-Schofield, mortgage specialist, and Marcus Luke II, homeownership counselor for URHA, are the team behind the Homeownership Program. The two were in Washington, D.C., May 13-16 to receive the Education Award at the fourth Home Ownership Participation for Everyone Awards.
"What makes this so significant is that we are being recognized as a native American Homeownership Program that is working successful in Indian country," Luke said.
Created in 2001 by a partnership of six real estate organizations, the HOPE Awards recognizes individuals and organizations that are making outstanding contributions to increase minority homeownership in America. The awards are presented every two years and winner receive the recognition as well as a $10,000 honorarium.
The awards were given to six organizations selected from about 135 applications from all over the United States. The URHA's Homeownership Program was the only one in the awards representing American Indians.
The URHA earn its award for developing a multifaceted homeownership program called "Wapayatat," meaning "to learn" in Umatilla. The URHA teaches long-term asset building through self-sufficiency to help tribal members learn about savings, budgeting, credit reports, interest rates and predatory lending.
"The tools are here for home ownership," Luke said.
Along with educating tribal member about the importance of financial literacy and how to protect themselves, Luke said the program can give 30 year mortgages on the reservation.
Before the program, tribal members often had difficulty obtaining home loans. Now the URHA is working with local fiscal institutions
"It was unheard of 10 years ago," Luke said. "That's what it takes - working together and let's leave the past in the past."
Luke said when someone obtaining a $150,000 or $200,000 loan for a home makes an economic difference in the area.
"It gives money back and is a win-win opportunity," he said.
The URHA is nonprofit and works for the community and tribal members. The CTUIR Board of Trustees appointed a five person board that governs the URHA. However, the CTUIR doesn't fund the Housing Authority as the two are separate entities. The Homeownership Program for URHA is grant funded, while both grant and federal dollars fund the other departments of URHA.