Rural Gateway Case Studies

San Felipe Pueblo Housing Authority

Project Summary

  • Grant Award: $1,660,000
  • Grant Category: Comprehensive
  • Applicant Type: Nonprofit, Tribal Affiliate
  • Grant Activities:
    • New housing construction
    • Homeownership counseling and maintenance training
  • Projected Impact:
    • Construction job creation: 35
    • Green building/energy job creation: 5
    • New housing construction: 12
    • Homes receiving green or energy-efficient improvements: 12
    • Households receiving homeownership counseling and maintenance training: 12


San Felipe map

San Felipe Pueblo, New Mexico

Key Outcomes

  • 14 new "green" homes
  • 35 tribal members trained/employed
  • Ongoing construction business for SFPHA

Community Description

The San Felipe Pueblo community is in the northwest corner of New Mexico in Sandoval County. It was founded in 1706 by Native Americans who speak Keresan languages. Currently, the population is approximately 3,700 individuals and 600 households, residing in a total area of 12.2 square miles. The median annual income is $29,800 and the population is relatively young, with 38 percent of the population below the age of 18 and only 4 percent over the age of 65. The existing Tribal housing was in poor condition and overcrowded.

The Organization

The San Felipe Pueblo Housing Authority (SFPHA) came into existence as a separate entity in 2000. Prior to 2000, the All-Pueblo Housing Council operated housing programs for all New Mexico pueblos. With the passage of the Native American Housing Assistance and Self- Determination Act (NAHASDA), separate housing authorities were established at individual pueblos to take advantage of provisions in the Act. The Rural Innovation Fund (RIF) grant is one piece of a larger SFPHA mixed-income project entitled Black Mesa View, which includes the construction of 150 single-family homes.

Project Overview

The RIF program, a federal program authorized in 2010, provides grant funds for tribal entities and rural organizations to create sustainable communities by addressing community poverty and concentrated housing distress in rural areas. It superseded the Rural Housing and Economic Development (RHED) program. There was one round of RIF funding for 51 grants totaling $31,355,235, larger grant amounts than previously typical of rural grant programs. RIF funded thirteen different eligible activities related to both housing and economic development and encouraged program innovation and the leverage of funds for a more comprehensive approach to the needs of rural communities.

A RIF grant is one piece of a larger SFPHA mixed-income project entitled Black Mesa View, which included the construction of 150 single-family homes. These homes are designed to largely replace homes constructed by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

SFPHA chose to embark on the Black Mesa View project because its annual NAHASDA grant would only allow for the construction of two to three units annually, a rate that would never be able to address the more significant housing needs of the pueblo. A leveraged approach was the only solution, according to SFPHA.

Black Mesa View is a large planned development that combines multiple funding sources, including grants, loans, and in-kind leverage for the development of single-family homes. The RIF grant allowed for the construction of 14 single-family homes for low- to moderate-income Tribal members. Thirteen of these homes are part of Black Mesa View, with the final home located on a scattered site at the request of the homeowner and with HUD approval. The estimated turnkey costs of the homes were $108,000–$125,000. All of the RIF homes are homeownership units for first-time homebuyers. SFPHA acts as the lender for the mortgages. The homes must continue to be owner-occupied homes and not subsidized low-income rental units.

Original Village Housing (Before)

Black Mesa View Subdivision (Before)

The Authority operates a financial education and assessment service that assists households in meeting the necessary standards for homeownership. The Authority has established a benchmark of 15–17 percent of monthly income to be devoted to servicing a mortgage.1

RIF and RHED funds supported all aspects of the actual house construction, primarily consisting of materials and labor. Homes financed by the RIF grant range from two- to five-bedroom structures. There are two predominant styles: the typical suburban “ranch” style, and the flat-roofed adobe structure common in much of the Southwest. Although these are generic styles, the completed structures are in no way identical, and each structure has some individual features that distinguish it from its immediate neighbors. Homes have access to a public gas line, which offers a healthier experience than some of the older reservation homes that use wood-burning stoves for cooking. “Green” construction was used, as well as passive solar design, thereby producing utility savings for homeowners.

The grant also provided for the employment and the promoted classification of 35 Tribal members as part of SFPHA’s force account crew that helped construct the homes. Staff members of the SFPHA, a Tribally Designated Housing Entity (TDHE), performed most of the construction and landscaping. As the RIF funds were received in the form of a grant, the mortgage program generates program income for SFPHA, of approximately $420 to $600 per month per home. This program income is then used by SFPHA to invest in and plan for future development, as well as maintain current housing, enabling a sustainable and self-sufficient housing authority.

The RIF homeowners were chosen from a list of approximately 140 persons who are eligible for the housing and deemed by SFPHA as qualified for homeownership. The loans are at 4 percent, amortized for 30 years, and include homeowner’s insurance through AMERIND Risk. By using additional HOME funds, SFPHA also offers each new homeowner $14,999 in down payment assistance.

1. This relatively low benchmark was established to enable households to meet the significant religious and social commitments associated with Tribal membership in the pueblo.

Project Resources

Primary RIF Project Resources

Source Amount Details
RIF Grant $1,660,000 Purchase and installation of modular homes.
ARRA Funds $2,000,000 Development infrastructure: water, sewer, natural gas, power, and data lines, as well as environmental review.
Tribal Government $9,000,000 value Donation of 100 acres of land. The acreage used for the RIF homes is approximately 5.24 acres.
Tribal Government/ New Mexico Finance Authority $12,000,000 The Tribe built a wastewater treatment facility on the land to be used for the Black Mesa View subdivision financed through a loan from the New Mexico Finance Authority. Includes an annual $150,000 contract to maintain the facility
HOME Funds/ New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority $210,000 RIF homebuyer (14) down payment assistance of $14,999 per family.
Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) N/A Provided the Master Lease for the portion of pueblo trust land.


The overall Black Mesa View project included the following additional resources:

  • American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA): Completed additional infrastructure work for the entire subdivision.
  • RHED: Provided a grant, which helped build some of the original modular homeownership units.
  • Indian Community Development Block Grant (ICDBG): Provided 2 grants, which helped with construction costs and down payment assistance for 28 modular units.
  • Tribal Housing Activities Loan Guarantee Program (Title VI): Provided construction loans.
  • Section 184 Native American Loans: Provided homeowner loans.
  • BIA: Provided funding for the construction of two homes for very- low-income families.
  • Enterprise Foundation: Provided a capacity-building grant for SFPHA.

Program Outcomes

The most obvious benefit of the RIF funds is the development of 14 new homes for use by the low-income families of San Felipe Pueblo, thereby improving their quality of life and overcrowded living conditions. In addition, the “green” construction of the homes and transition to “clean” cooking should also lower their utility costs and improve health outcomes as well.

According to SFPHA, the timing and size of the RIF grant provided two great benefits to the Authority above and beyond the increase in housing for the community, the first of which being an opportunity for employment and training for 35 Tribal members. The use of in-house SFPHA staff not only generated jobs for those individuals, which included an apprentice/mentorship program, but it has also enhanced the skills and capacities of the Authority. This enhancement of the construction and construction management skills of the SFPHA operations staff allowed the Authority to continue construction on homes in the subdivision, utilizing program income from loans on the homes they have already constructed. Additionally, the skill level of these staff members has reached such a level that the Tribal government now utilizes this staff for its own construction projects, such as the recently-completed Tribal Administration Building. Having a trained, certified construction crew allows the SFPHA to serve as a construction resource for the entire Tribal community, ensuring that more construction and grant funds go to Tribal members and Tribal organizations.

Original Village Housing (Before)

Original Village Housing (Before)

Secondly, the use of RIF funds also benefits the long-term financing and ownership objectives of SFPHA. The Authority chose to make the newly-constructed homes available only to households that would qualify for mortgages under parameters such as those set by Section 184 Indian Home Loan Guarantee Program, which is facilitated by HUD’s Office of Native American Programs. The advantage of using RIF funds for construction of some housing units means that the Authority is the original owner of those units “free and clear,” and thus mortgage payments from households represent ongoing programmatic income for the Authority that they can then use to provide more housing and services to Tribal members on an ongoing basis.

Perhaps equally as important is the impact of the RIF grant to the ongoing enhancement of the SFPHA as a major financial entity for the pueblo population. A significant proportion of the pueblo population is still not fluent in English and has limited contact with external financial and commercial entities, such as banks or credit unions. The ability of the SFPHA to become a middleman between this population and external financial entities represents a major resource enhancement for the pueblo through access to credit. The RIF grant appears to have been catalytic to this development.

Lessons Learned

One of the key lessons learned from this project was the importance of staff continuity. Both the Executive Director and the Financial Director were at SFPHA throughout the entirety of the Black Mesa View project, and almost since its inception. This staff experience and consistency at the senior level was key to developing and implementing a long-term, comprehensive housing strategy.

Two other takeaways from this project were the power of leveraging resources, particularly when taking on a multi-phase, large-scale development project; and the importance of sorting out the environmental review (ER) process at the outset so that it does not slow down or derail the development activities. SFPHA missed the necessity for a Part 58 ER, and therefore had to redo and refinance a second and unanticipated round of environmental reviews.

SFPHA RIF Home (After)

SFPHA RIF Home (After)