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Submitted to the
Alaska Natives Commission
in connection with a hearing at

Fairbanks, Alaska
July 18, 1992

4000 Old Seward Highway, Suite 100
Anchorage, Alaska 99503


Witness List | Exhibit List | PDF Version


Deposition Exhibit #11 - Testimony of Joeneal R. Hicks



July 18, 1992

Submitted by Joeneal R. Hicks
Commissioner, Copper River Basin Regional Housing Authority

My report is intended to give you, the Alaska Native Review Commission, an insight on problem issues that are a direct result of Housing Urban Development (HUD) funding within the Ahtna Region. Though my report is not conclusive, it gives you a general overview of the situation, whether good or bad, as it exists today. I strongly point out that this report entails the Ahtna Region only, however, HUD funded housing problems in the State of Alaska can be considered the same.

The housing program within the Ahtna Region began in the late 70's as a result of inadequate and substandard native homes, poverty, poor health standards, and the need for better native living. Kluti-Kaah Corporation, the native village corporation for the village of Copper Center, was the first applicant for HUE funded homes. Intended at the time was to provide low income housing for the native elderly. With assistance from the Copper River Native Association (CRNA), HUD responded by appointment of a housing authority, now commonly known as the Copper River Basin Regional Housing Authority. Kluti-Kaah’s request was based on the understanding that funds used would come from Indian Housing monies. Thus, any benefit derived would be theirs as only natives would be eligible for housing occupancy. Within six years following this request, five other villages would have applied for and received housing assistance.

But first, before HUD monies could be spent, there was need for land. Discussions and meetings abounded, and in short, the Ahtna Regional Corporation was held to provide the needed land. This approach, as was the understanding between the parties involved, would provide low income housing to Ahtna natives in need. Basically, providing land was a question of economics, as it would provide better living standards and allow the Ahtna native to be self-sufficient. The agreements reached was that when the home was paid for, the land and house would revert to the home buyer. Housing was exclusively for native use and occupancy as Indian monies were used. It is this scenario that would later become the biggest problem factor regarding housing development in the Ahtna Region.

Because land was vital to the upsurge in housing re-quests, lands selected under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was but one solution. Repeatedly, CRBRHA elaborated on section 14(c)(3) of said Act, as it obligated villages to reconvey lands, if not incorporated as a city, to the State of Alaska in Trust. The avenue of lease, sale, or other mechanisms were discarded since section 14(c)(3) was the law, it could be done expeditiously, it lacked paperwork, meetings, and was less costly. Agreements were signed and executed to this effect, and the end result of Ahtna providing 14(c)(3) lands total 79.6 acres, plus.

Today, Ahtna no longer provides the needed lands for housing due to legal implications that have arisen (i.e.: each home is not exclusively for Ahtna native use and occupancy, and the land is subject to loss, etc.). It is the result of policies or lack of, that Ahtna made its decision. I have outlined four basic problem areas explaining why this decision was reached.

1. Land Base - Questions regarding whether the Ahtna native homebuyer will ever receive the lands is uncertain. Lands conveyed under ANCSA section 14(c)(3) are for future city governments as a source of revenue or otherwise. Given this, the homebuyer can never acquire title to the land, unless a city opts to do so by its own stipulations. The question of becoming a city is far fetched, has not been thought of, and is entirely out of the picture at present.

2. Non-Native Occupancy - The CRBRHA asserts that the monies used to build the homes are public monies, therefore by providing homes to only Ahtna natives is discrimination. Today there is approximately 60% occupancy by Ahtna native families, the other 40% consist of non-native housing, are vacant or in need or repair. Non-native occupancy of the homes validates the question of who will actually own the land after the home is paid for.

3. Low Income - Within the Ahtna region, there is a total of 57 HUD funded homes and apartments, Of these, 48 are situated on lands conveyed under ANCSA to Ahtna, Inc., with one exception by lease. Others are built on town site lands or native allotments. Each home is priced at approximately $100,000 dollars and depending on individual income, the monthly payment is derived at about 50% or higher. It is the responsibility of the homebuyer and apartment renter to report all income, whether it be from one's job or a salary increase, winnings in bingo, trapping, tips, or selling hand made materials and must be verified. Each monthly payment is never fixed, it is always subject to change and does not include the cost of electricity. The homebuyer is charged for all repairs, improvements, and maintenance including the cost of travel, purchase, and time. This type of monthly payment leaves little if any for other essentials such as groceries and telephone. Essentially, the native homebuyer is in no better position than he/she was before, but worse. Many Ahtna homebuyers resort to welfare and food stamps as a supplement. Many do not seek work, afraid of a cost of living increase.

4. Other HUD/CRBRHA Requirements - The CRBRHA imposes on the homebuyer, at their cost, that each home be kept in strict compliance of code. Home inspections are conducted and if repairs are needed, it is done at the homebuyer expense. Some homes lack a survey, while others are in a land status conflict Many homebuyers are behind in monthly payments, others are subject to eviction due to non-compliance with CRBRHA requirements, while others are put on notice that penalties can and will be assessed.

In conclusion, the end result of all the above, is unhappy homebuyers who are angry and feel infringed upon. Many have moved out, others try to make ends meet, others take it day to day. Most have approached Ahtna requesting assistance. Encroachment by non-natives in predominately native villages creates undue hardship, conflicts, and competition, increasing awareness and dissatisfaction towards the housing authority. It is unlikely that 100% native occupancy can ever be achieved again.

The potential loss of land is certain to remain an unanswered question. Twenty years or more to pay off a home is a long time for it to remain in good condition. Priced at $100,000 dollars some homes are without electricity and running water, although they are set up for it. Each home requires extra money for fuel and heat, and are inadequately insulated. Overall, the home is more of a burden than an achievement.

Adequate housing for the Ahtna native is still a need. But, with current CRBRHA policy and procedural requirements, the likelihood of obtaining needed lands from Ahtna remains a factor. The possibility of rescinding the Ahtna decision will not occur unless changes are made for the betterment of Ahtna natives. As is now, the CRBRHA continues to run the show.

I have recently been appointed to the CRBRHA board, of who has denied my request to fund me to give this report. My board appointment provides a likelihood that changes can be made. It is my position that a review of current procedures, policies, and guidelines be accomplished and addressed. I seek changes for the Ahtna native people and request that you do too. Thank you for allowing me to give this report.

This document was ocr scanned. We have made every attempt to keep the online document the same as the original, including the recorder's original misspellings or typos.




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Last modified May 12, 2011