Citizen Potawatomi Nation has 160 affordable rent units — 46 family units and 114 elder units — but that number is set to increase soon. After two years of planning, construction started this spring on 66 new family units.

They will be added to the existing family units that were built in Tecumseh, Oklahoma, in 2005. The original duplexes, CPN Housing Department Director Scott George said, are all made up of three-bedroom units, which made it hard for some families to get off the waiting list.

“The waiting list for those has always been a mixture of families that could use a larger unit or a smaller unit, and because they didn’t meet that three-bedroom criteria, they were passed over and put at the bottom of the list,” he said.

To alleviate that problem, the new development has plans for two-, three- and four-bedroom units, with two different floor plans for each size.

“We’ll also add an additional playground and an additional storm shelter,” George said.

The existing units have a Federal Emergency Management Agency-certified storm shelter already, but George hopes the new shelter might also serve another purpose for the community — such as offering a space to host community meetings or events.

He added that the development will also include ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) units, which will have an area of refuge within the unit.

Building in phases

“Just before COVID, we started talking about it, and then all during that time, we worked with an architect to develop the floor plans,” George said. “We just let it out for bid this winter, actually in February.”

Dirt work and infrastructure were completed in 2022, and construction of the units started in spring of 2023.

The development will be built in stages, with George estimating each stage to take six months and the final stage to be finished in two years.

The first stage will see the completion of 16 two- and three-bedroom units. The rest of the two- and three-bedroom units will be completed in the second and fourth stages, and all of the four-bedroom units will be built during the third stage.

The playground and storm shelter are also planned for the last stage.

Applying for waiting list

The development, like the CPN Housing Department’s other programs, is funded through the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act (NAHASDA).

The units are available for low-income Native Americans, though CPN tribal members have first preference. Applicants cannot have any felonies and must go through a background check.

“Our mission is the same as HUD’s mission,” George said. “We have to provide safe, sanitary, affordable housing, and we take the ‘safe’ part very seriously.”

Rent for the units is based on income and won’t be more than 30% of the renter’s total adjusted monthly income.

George added that some income is still needed because renters pay their own utilities. However, he said the housing department is familiar with typical utility costs for the units, so if they think an applicant’s income is not enough to pay the utilities, they will make recommendations for additional options.

Right now, there is a waiting list for housing, but George hopes to start taking applications for the new units soon.

George recommends making an appointment to go into the office in person so employees can explain how the program works, what the rent structure is, and help with any questions about documents and the application process.

“It serves us a lot better, and them, for them to come in person to pick up the application,” George said. “We can help them fill it out here if they need to, or they can take it home and come back.”

Those interested in applying for housing can call the CPN Housing Department at 405-273-2833 or 800-880-9880 or visit in person at 44007 Hardesty Road, Shawnee, OK.