April 19, 2014

Lumbee tribe builds capital, success

PEMBROKE, N.C. (AP) – The Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina had a little more than $2 million in assets when it formed its government nearly 10 years ago.

Today, the tribe has more than $51 million in new homes, rental properties, Boys & Girls Clubs and Community Centers and a $4.5 million housing complex under construction.

The Fayetteville Observer reported that tribal leaders say the projects are one way to build the tribe’s wealth and provide affordable housing for its members.

“By reaching the magical number of $50 million, it assures that the tribal government will always be here,” said Tribal Chairman Jimmy Goins. “Our main purpose is the same as when we started in 2000, and that is helping the Lumbee people. We have demonstrated that by being able to bring funding into Lumbee communities.”

Goins said if you had asked him in 2001 whether the tribe would have $50 million in assets, he would have said it was impossible.

“We would have never thought we would be where we are today,” Goins said.

The tribe has secured grants to pay for many of its projects. The tribe receives money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Community Development Block Grants and others. The tribe receives more than $10 million a year from HUD for housing.

Recently, the tribe received $7.2 million in tax credits to build 50 single-family homes in Arrowpoint Acres in Pembroke. The homes will be rental homes for low-income tribal members.

“There are so many people who are paying rent, and can pay rent, but for whatever reason cannot get financing for homeownership,” said Bosco Locklear, the tribe’s housing director. “This will help alleviate that. They can still have affordable housing and not rent dilapidated mobile homes.”

A majority of the projects address housing for low-income Lumbees and older members. Other projects are designed to provide a place for tribal youth and elders to gather for cultural activities.

There are 150 members on the waiting list for the tribe’s homeownership program, Locklear said.

The tribe plans to build two duplexes at Saddletree Estates, an apartment unit for tribal elders just outside Lumberton.

“We got to keep them independent, keep them around their church family and their kin,” said Leon Revels, the tribe’s new construction manager.

The projects include transitional housing for tribal members who were burned out of their homes or who have lost their homes to acts of nature. Four homes will be built in Robeson, Hoke and Cumberland counties. Tribal members can stay in the homes rent free for 90 days.

“The goal is for the tribal members to be able to stay in their communities,” Goins said.

The tribe also is building a new complex to house its administrative offices. The tribal office is now in a former strip mall. The Tribal Council holds its meetings more than three miles away. The new complex would put all the tribe’s programs and services under one roof. The tribe secured a $4 million loan to fund that project.

The tribe has been able to save money because of the economic climate. Some bids for projects are coming in under the projected cost, saving the tribe thousands of dollars, Revels said. Also, he said, these projects are putting people in the area to work.

Goins said getting to this point has not been easy. The tribe has made some tough decisions to stay economically stable, he said. Two years ago, the tribe had to cut staff and reduce funding for some of its programs because of a reduction in federal funding.

Those cuts and smart investments have worked in the tribe’s favor, Goins said.

“We made those tough calls,” he said, “and fortunately for the membership, they will reap the benefits from that.”

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