HUD rejects Calista Housing plan

Posted: Tuesday, May 29, 2001

BETHEL (AP) -- The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has rejected a plan by Calista Corp. to start its own housing authority.

Donna J. Hartley, director of HUD's grants management division, in a letter to Calista President Matthew Nicolai explained that the corporation's housing plan did not comply with the Native American Housing and Self Determination Act, according to The Tundra Drums.

Calista's plan to use $5.8 million in federal NAHASDA funds drove a wedge between it and the Association of Village Council Presidents Regional Housing Authority in Bethel.

For the past two years, federal money for the upkeep of houses built from the 1937 Housing Act has been passed through Calista to AVCP's regional housing authority. The authority services 39 of the tribes in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. Ten other villages in the delta administer their own housing program.

Calista last year set up the Calista Housing Authority and submitted its own Indian Housing Plan to use the federal funding.

Hartley said in the letter Calista's plan was rejected because AVCP's regional housing authority refused to act as a subrecipient unless it received the full amount of the available federal funds.

Calista's plan provided AVCP's housing authority with only $1.6 million of the $5.8 million available, said Jackie Johnson, deputy assistant secretary of HUD's office of Native American Program.

Forty-nine tribes in Western Alaska have either written letters in support of AVCP or sent resolutions against Calista's housing plan to HUD.

Opposition from shareholders and local tribal housing authorities to Calista's plan also has resulted in a drive to remove the corporation's board of directors at its upcoming annual shareholder meeting June 2.

''There have been a lot of resolutions from the villages for Calista not to issue a housing plan under NAHASDA, and they still don't listen to the people,'' said George Smith, administrator of the Scammon Bay Traditional Council.

Calista also wanted to use $3 million to build a community center and office in Bethel that AVCP officials said wasn't needed. And the Calista plan included building houses in Anchorage for shareholders.

Nicolai defended the corporation's plan, saying it wanted to make sure low-income housing money was available to all its shareholders. There are about 1,000 Calista shareholders living outside the Delta in the state's urban centers.

''There's a need for the people in Anchorage, Juneau and Fairbanks,'' Nicolai said. ''They want the same services as the villages. We cannot discriminate against them because they live in Anchorage.''

Calista, one of Alaska's 13 Native corporations, owns 88 percent of Alaska Newspapers Inc., which publishes The Tundra Drums.

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