The Bishop Paiute Tribe has become the first California Native-American tribe to receive an award of low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs).

The Bishop Paiute Tribe plans to develop 30 homes in Inyo County, Calif. Photo: Bowen National Research
The Bishop Paiute Tribe plans to develop 30 homes in Inyo County, Calif. Photo: Bowen National Research

It recently received reservations of $884,507 in federal housing credits and $3.4 million in state housing credits from the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee (TCAC). Located in the small town of Bishop in the state’s Eastern Sierra region, the tribe will use the credits to build 30 new homes and a community building.

The award was made through a pilot Native-American set-aside in the state’s LIHTC program.

Native-American tribes had contacted TCAC in 2013 and asked officials to consider changes to the 9 percent tax credit process because they believed tribal applicants were unlikely to be able to compete successfully for the credits.

“After careful consideration, TCAC decided on a pilot program to apportion some credits for federally-recognized tribes out of the rural set-aside,” says Bill Ainsworth, spokesman for state Treasurer and TCAC chairman Bill Lockyer. “The pilot apportionment will continue through 2015, allowing TCAC to analyze results before considering additional changes.”

In the 2014 first round, TCAC received two applications under the set-aside. Bishop Paiute’s application scored the program’s full 148 points and would have won in the rural set-aside even without the pilot apportionment, according to Ainsworth.

Even so, supporters of the pilot program say the set-aside matters. TCAC has received two additional Native-American apportionment applications in the current second round.

“This opportunity is very important for tribes in California, and we encourage all California tribes to urge the state to make these changes permanent,” says David Bland, chairman and CEO of Travois, a consulting firm focused on promoting housing and economic development for American Indian and other native communities. The firm worked with the Bishop Paiute Tribe to structure its LIHTC project.

The development will meet the needs of large families and multigenerational households common to the tribe. Twenty-six homes will be three-bedroom units or larger. All the homes will be built on quarter-acre lots, allowing for private yards and outdoor recreation space. Actual proposed income and rent targeting will range from 30 percent to 40 percent of the area median income.

Each home will be equipped with solar panels that are estimated to produce at minimum 50 percent of the unit’s annual electricity needs. The families will benefit from reduced utility costs.

The development will also include a 3,000-square-foot community building, a playground, and a barbecue pit.

The community was among 41 projects that were reserved more than $42.6 million in federal 9 percent credits and $50.7 million in state credits in California’s first round in June. These projects will provide 2,267 total units, of which 2,228 will be affordable.

Connect with Donna Kimura, deputy editor of Affordable Housing Finance, on Twitter @DKimura_AHF.