STILWELL — After an April tornado destroyed Cherokee Nation citizen Kristen Morton’s mobile home off Route 51 in Adair County, she wasn’t sure how long it would take to recover, let alone be a new home owner.
On Wednesday, Principal Chief Bill John Baker handed Morton a giant golden key, since her family is the first in line to get a new four-bedroom 1,300 square-foot brick home through the New Home Construction program.
The program aims to build 300 new homes per year for citizens living in the tribe’s 14-county jurisdictional area that earn $15,000 or more a year income. Because it does not use federal funds there are no low income restrictions.
“We were living with family members, so it feels good to be on our own again,” Morton said. “We may have been a home owner, but it would have been a while. We’re really young and hadn’t started planning.”
Baker initiated the program after taking office because he said growing up he saw the impact the tribe’s former mutual help homes had when his own friends received a first home. It built capital, self-esteem and even improved their school grades, and tribal citizens today can benefit, said Baker.
“When that program went away and the Housing Authority stopped it, I saw a difference. This is something that we can do and should do,” Baker said. “Make no mistake these are not free homes; everybody that gets them pays for them but at $350 a month—something less than going to town to pay $600 a month for rentals. They own it and immediately build wealth, have equity and have a safe sanitary place to live.”
More than 950 Cherokee Nation citizens have signed up for the New Home Construction program with land owners getting homes built first. Seven homes built from the program near the Muskogee and Cherokee County line will also be completed this month.
Model homes will be open for tours at 5000 S. Muskogee Ave., in Tahlequah from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday Aug. 31, and Sat. Sept. 1 during the 60th Cherokee National Holiday. For information about the program visit the housing page under the services link on www.cherokee.org or call 800-837-2869.