Rural Gateway Case Studies

Oglala Sioux Housing Authority Rural Innovation Fund (RIF) Housing Project

Project Summary

  • FY 2011 Grant Award: $2,000,000
  • Grant Category: Comprehensive
  • Applicant Type: Indian Tribe
  • Grant Activities:
    • New housing construction
    • Job training
    • Education
  • Projected Impact:
    • New housing construction: 18
    • New energy efficient housing units: 18
    • Individuals receiving energy audit training: 5
    • Individuals receiving weatherization installer training: 10


Pine Ridge, South Dakota map

Pine Ridge, South Dakota

Key Outcomes

  • 18 new energy efficient homes
  • Establishment of a Tribal property management company


Doyle Pipe on Head,
Chief Contract Officer
Ogala Sioux Lakota Housing
(605) 867-5161

Community Description

The Pine Ridge Reservation is an Oglala Lakota Native American reservation located in the Badlands area of South Dakota on the Nebraska border. It consists of 3,468.85 square miles of land area and is the second largest reservation in the United States, but only approximately 4 percent of it is suited for agriculture. The area encompasses Oglala Lakota, Bennett, and sections of Jackson and Sheridan Counties, which are among the poorest counties in the country. This is also an area famous for such historical events as the Wounded Knee Massacre and the last Ghost Dances. The reservation hosts a 4-year Tribal college, Oglala Lakota College, and their own newspaper, the Lakota Times.

Pine Ridge Reservation map

Map of the Pine Ridge Reservation

The population of the reservation is approximately 29,000, with up to another 10,000 living off the reservation. 80 percent of residents are unemployed, and 98 percent live below the poverty level. The average per capita income for Oglala Lakota County is $4,000.

The health indicators of infant mortality, teen suicide, and life expectancy are five times, four times, and nearly half of the national average, respectively. Death rates due to diabetes are three times higher than the national average. The school dropout rate is 70 percent. The reservation has little economic development or industry, and no banks are located on the site. However, there is some agricultural activity under way to include industrial hemp and some startup businesses in the area of solar energy, among others. Many families have no electricity, telephone, running water, or sewage systems, and use wood stoves for heating.

The Organization

Oglala Sioux Lakota Housing (OSLH) is a Tribally designated housing entity chartered by the Oglala Sioux Tribe in 1998 after the reorganization of the Oglala Sioux Housing Authority. Its mission is to obtain and maintain housing for the people of the Pine Ridge Reservation and assist with improvement of health, safety, and economic prosperity. OSLH manages and maintains more than 1,200 low-rent units and has built an additional 500 homeownership units.

Inspirational Quilt in the OSLH Headquarters that reads: The Oglala are the Cream of the Crop, not because We are but because We Think We are..., Johnson Holy Rock, 2001, Itancan, Oglala Lakota

This inspirational quilt is displayed at OSLH headquarters, reading:
"The Oglala are the Cream of the Crop, not because We are but because We Think We are... - Johnson Holy Rock, 2001, Itancan, Oglala Lakota"

Oglala Sioux Lakota Housing Headquarter

Oglala Sioux Lakota Housing Headquarters

Project Overview

OSLH used the RIF grant to build 18 homes on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The homes were built in nine different communities, two homes per community, to spread the impact across the reservation. They were located in communities previously built with Tribal funds over the last several decades to take advantage of existing infrastructure and resources, such as educational and recreational opportunities. The homes were geared more toward “middle income,” residents although it bears recognizing that this is a relative term on a reservation with a per capita income of $4,000. The homes had more “luxuries” such as appliances, yards, fences, and more.

As part of the RIF funded program, OSLH developed the Lakota Property Management Company. New home residents were required to pay higher rent, take financial education, attend housing counseling courses, and pay rent via direct deposit. The company held residents to a high standard of resident responsibility, including more stringent lease terms such as the ability to evict within 10 days for nonpayment of rent. The new Lakota Property Management Company allowed the housing authority to exercise more stringent control over the management of the properties and provide more freedom to impose sanctions on residents when necessary.

The new homes are built to high energy efficiency standards, which is both economically critical given resident incomes and a sizable upgrade from the wooden stoves and lack of modern utilities previously available to residents. There is passive solar heating and retention in the winter, and insulation to improve both summer and winter utility usage. The homes run east-west, with most windows on the south side to bring in maximum light, and have “air recovery systems” to keep air moving through the home. OSLH did an analysis of heating and cooling costs across a number of home types, including one of the new homes fitted with donated solar panels, to help identify for future development the most efficient design and placement. The homes are also “tight fit” to make them more energy efficient.

Oglala RIF home construction

RIF Home Interiors Under Construction

Project Resources

OSLH provided $1 million in Native American Housing and Self Determination Act (NAHASDA) funding to leverage the $2 million RIF grant. The housing authority received approximately $10 million in NAHASDA funding each year. Some additional partners included:

  • EnviroTech, a construction company focused on energy efficient homes
  • Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation, which built a planned development where two homes are sited
  • Partnership for Housing, which does homeownership counseling
  • Oglala Lakota College, which provided the housing counseling and financial education

Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation

Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation

Program Outcomes

Energy efficient, modern homes & infrastructure: The RIF project provided high-quality energy efficient homes for 18 families on Pine Ridge Reservation in one of the poorest counties in the United States. It paid for infrastructure improvements that allowed for additional future construction and helped with the location of pipes and sewers where location plans had not previously existed. With no central reservation planning office, many records on the location of major infrastructure developments were inaccurate or missing. These inaccuracies were identified and catalogued during the construction process, and these once-dispersed records are now being kept in a central location.

The new homes are energy efficient, which not only lowered energy costs for the families, but modernized their home systems in a way which had limited environmental impact on the community.

Creation of property management company: OSLH’s organizational capacity was enhanced significantly with the creation of Lakota Property Management. The company created jobs and enabled OSLH to apply more stringent requirements to residents, thereby maintaining properties in a more pristine condition, and to train staff in private sector skills. Likewise, the Lakota Property Management company helped make OSLH more competitive for Low Income Housing Tax Credits.

Oglala Energy Efficient Design

Energy Efficiency in Design

Shifting attitudes, looking ahead: OSLH hoped that through the introduction of these new homes and the institution of more prescriptive property management, they could begin to shift the attitude of people on the reservation that housing is an entitlement that residents need not maintain. OSLH anticipated that this new approach would ultimately improve the agencies’ financial condition and extend the life of their homes. Through an improved financial condition OSLH hoped to increase the likelihood of acquiring tax credits and improve the potential of rent collection required in tax credit projects.