Best Practices in Tribal Housing: Case Studies 2013


The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development presents this report on 17 projects that highlight a variety of unique features of sustainable construction within Native American settings. When sustainable housing is implemented within Native American communities, the result can be healthier, more energy-efficient, and climatically appropriate housing stock that often incorporates strong cultural and historic tribal design elements.

Many best practices are emerging from this research, helping to clarify the innovative ways that tribal housing providers are overcoming challenges including funding, infrastructure capacity, loss of cultural traditions, and economic development. In particular, many featured teams approached housing development in a holistic manner—incorporating meaningful community engagement during the design process, reaching out to establish partnerships and collaborations that later proved critical for success, and solving complex challenges, from site planning to financing and tribal employment. Four of these projects were documented through video to better tell their stories.

These 17 projects, selected from a group of diverse projects nationwide, are all recently built works with the exception of one long-term sustainable housing plan. They were reviewed for their replicability and applicability to other communities, and for their expression of green building features, community engagement processes, design excellence, cultural sensitivity, and for addressing broader community needs, such as training and employment. The projects were selected to show a range of project types, including rental and homeownership projects; and multifamily, single-family, and prototype demonstration projects. Importantly, each project was reviewed for its comprehensive approach and its potential to educate and inspire other communities. 

The projects showcased here demonstrate that high-quality housing from within tribal communities can be a catalytic force—providing hope and strength in sometimes desperate conditions. It is hoped that through the dissemination of this case study research, technical assistance collaborations, and funding focused on sustainable construction, more tribal communities will gain access to the means of creating their own culturally appropriate and environmentally responsible housing.

Prepared for: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Policy Development & Research (PD&R)

Prepared by: Jamie Blosser, Atkin Olshin Schade Architects Nathaniel Corum, Architecture for Humanity Daniel Glenn, 7 Directions Architects/Planners Joseph Kunkel, Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow Ed Rosenthal, Enterprise Community Partners Rural and Native American Initiative (RNAI) October 2014