Chelsea Donoho

With a lengthy wait list of hundreds of families and elders in need of affordable housing, the Yurok Indian Housing Authority (YIHA) has created the first low-income housing development for tribal members in Arcata, California, which is outside the Yurok Tribe’s trust land but within its massive service area.

The YIHA collaborated with Travois Architecture to create the 36-unit Yurok Homes #3 development to provide a wide variety of housing options. The end result included eight three-bedroom single-family homes, each with a separate first-floor accessory dwelling unit; 10 two-bedroom apartments; and 10 three-bedroom townhomes, which serve residents earning between 30% and 50% of the area median income.

Chelsea Donoho

“The need for affordable housing in this area is essential to the self-esteem and self-respect for the low-income tribal communities. For the last several decades, this area has been largely inhabited by employees of the university, students, and community members that can afford to purchase upper-socioeconomic-type single-family homes,” says YIHA executive director Nicole Sager. “There are eight federally recognized tribes in Humboldt County, none of which have low-income housing options in the city of Arcata, except this Yurok project. I can’t express how overwhelming the need is for the tribal community.”

Sager says the impact the development is having on residents is positive. The development includes a community center, laundry facilities, a fitness room, and community gardens. The YIHA also provides important services, such as a domestic violence specialist and a home buyer education program.

Yurok Homes #3 also has a sustainable focus, with sensitive rainwater side design, solar photovoltaics, a greywater system, and efficient building envelopes and systems. The $19 million development marked the first time a Native nation received funding from California’s Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program. This award helped fund an electric bus; bike lanes; a 1-mile, multiuse trail; accessible walkway; and a pedestrian bridge that benefit residents and the community.