By Matthew Power. A group of researchers from the nonprofit Housing Assistance Council (HAC) in Washington have more bad news about housing conditions on Native American lands. Taking the Ogllala Lakota Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota as their detailed case study, researchers found that getting decent shelter on tribal lands is far more difficult than in the rest of the state. Almost one-third of American Indians in native areas live in poverty. Many who do own homes live in manufactured homes.

But the bigger story is not the cost of their housing, but what they get for their money. Consider the following facts the HAC uncovered about Shannon County, S.D., which includes the Pine Ridge reservation and has a population of 94.2 percent American Indians.

  • 49.6 percent of residents own their homes, compared with 68.2 percent statewide.

  • 41 percent of homes have telephones.

  • 39.1 percent of homes are overcrowded, compared with 3.1 percent statewide.

  • 20 percent lack complete plumbing. Efforts to entice for-profit developers to help with American Indian housing often run into lack of financing. In 1999, 73 percent of the 228 home loans applied for by Pine Ridge residents were rejected. But a few programs have been successful--notably loans from the Department of Agriculture and a nonprofit called the Ogllala Sioux Tribe Partnership for Housing. The local housing authority estimates the need for at least 4,000 more units immediately.

    Sources: Knight Ridder Reports, Housing Assistance Council