Calista appeals HUD ruling on housing plan

Posted: Sunday, June 03, 2001

BETHEL (AP) -- The Calista Corp. is appealing a ruling by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development turning down its plan to start its own housing authority.

Calista is working on a ''detailed response'' to HUD's rejection, said Byron Romer, executive director of Calista Housing Authority.

Calista's plan was to use $5.8 million in federal funds through the Native American Housing and Determination Act.

Donna J. Hartley, director of HUD's grants management division, sent Calista a letter on May 11 rejecting the housing plan for not complying with the act.

Calista believes that HUD's Anchorage office is interpreting the act's regulations incorrectly and that the federal agency is asking Calista to meet requirements not required of other housing authorities.

''It seems that the information they're requesting is too detailed in nature,'' Romer said. ''HUD is treating us a little different than other Indian tribal housing entities. They're holding us to a high standard.''

Romer said Calista does not intend to make changes to its housing plan in its appeal.

HUD has 20 days to consider the appeal. If it upholds its denial, the regional Native corporation would have 21 days to appeal to the assistant secretary for public and Indian housing in Washington, D.C.

Even if Calista is successful, its housing authority faces another hurdle in convincing Alaska Village Council Presidents Regional Housing Authority to act as a subrecipient to carry out maintenance of low-income housing in Bethel and surrounding villages.

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.

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.

Calista 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.

AVCP's housing authority wants all $5.8 million from the federal agency to meet low-income housing needs in the region.

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