Tsigo bugeh Village (tsee-go boo-gay)
Tsigo bugeh Village, completed in 2003, is an award winning residential rental community development that combines traditional living with modern design and conveniences. With a growing community and 80 families on a waiting list for housing, Ohkay Owingeh realized that relying solely on the traditional methods of financing in Indian Country would not be adequate. Thus in 1999, OOHA began to plan for a new rental project. The existing housing, unfortunately, was often substandard, with high maintenance costs and led away from the Pueblo core to sprawl, with individual homes built on separate lots.
The Ohkay Owingeh Housing Authority wanted to do something different. This was the first housing project for OOHA and it was important that every aspect reflected the cultural core values of the Pueblo. We put together a team of architects and contractors, and we established a community design process, which included public dialogue and meetings with community elders, storytellers and tribal members. We looked into the idea of using federal low-income tax credits as well as loans and grants to fund the $5.3 million project, and brought in consultants that were experienced with that program to teach us more about it. The result is Tsigo bugeh Village, a residential community that reflects traditional pueblo living with attached units divided around two plazas, one oriented to the solstice and the other to the equinox, which is how the original pueblo was built. The homes are connected like town homes, and their scale and massing are similar to the original pueblo, instead of single story homes on large lots from the last 40 years. This is key to our architectural heritage, and the idea of community living that is central to our way of life.
The 40-unit development offers one, two, three and four-bedroom apartments. All of the apartments are equipped with a gas stove, refrigerator, and hook-ups for a washer and dryer. Each apartment has a gas furnace, which supplies central heat and an evaporative cooler for the summer months. Each unit has a chimney for a wood burning stove. Six hornos (outdoor ovens) are available for tenants to use throughout the property. A community meeting space, playground, computer room, business center and laundry facility are available to residents.
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Tsigo bugeh Village demonstrated that Tribally Designated Housing Entities (TDHS’s) could adapt mainstream financing and merge new as well as traditional development ideas to create a viable housing development on the reservation. The development was also a pilot for many “firsts for the Ohkay Owingeh community and Tribal Housing in general:
Community and Tribal Leadership Involvement
This is the first tribally driven planned housing development on the reservation since the creation of the traditional housing constructed over 400 years ago, and it is the only rental housing on the pueblo. As a result, OOHA placed a focus on planning, and sought community involvement and input. We held a series of meetings to understand what our community’s housing needs were, and we asked people to tell us how their home could support their values: social, family, cultural an spiritual. We asked them what materials were most important to them in a home, and whether their current homes satisfy any of these values or needs.
We also had esteemed storytellers in the community come to the meetings and describe their experiences growing up in the historic core of the Pueblo, with everyones grandmother watching over them as they played, the yearly whitewashing of plaster under the portals, and the seed ball game that was played every spring. As a result, not only was the site plan and building massing built similarly to the old pueblo, but the floor plans were developed to accommodate the many people that come through the homes on feast days.
Land Use & Infrastructure
Through the public input process, OOHA gathered a wealth of information concerning housing preference and needs, but also potential barriers to a planned development, including the lack of design and land use documents. The planning stage highlighted the Tribe’s particular focus on preserving their limited land base. At 12,000 acres, with land dedicated to economic development, cultural, historic and agricultural and water rights preservation, there is significant competition for land for housing. Tribal leaders realized that continuing to develop sprawl housing would severely limit the land base for agricultural use and open space for future generations.
In addition, the Tribe’s infrastructure had not kept pace with the high growth, and the water and wastewater systems were inadequate. At the beginning of the project, there was a moratorium on new development, until these systems were upgraded.
As a result, OOHA worked with tribal leaders and other departments to develop a Planning Committee. Through this committee, funds were applied for to upgrade the infrastructure systems, and a long-term master land use plan was developed. This Master Plan, in adhering to traditional pueblo values, won a Smart Growth Award for Small Communities from the EPA in 2004. It has provided a blue print for growth, especially in the historic core area – to retain the traditional character and heritage of the Pueblo.
Tsigo bugeh Village is the first multi-story housing since the original pueblo, demonstrating that tribal members are ready to return to live in a more traditional housing environment. There are many aspects of the design that reflect the Pueblo’s history and values.
The entry tiles to each front door were designed by children at the Community Day School; ramadas and hornos are placed throughout the plazas for use by the residents; the community center is well used by residents, with computers, an exercise room and kitchen for large functions. The community center also has a mural designed by a local artist.
The design is also an example of sustainable design, primarily through its density, which allowed for fewer utility lines, reducing waste and improving efficiency. Southern windows in the living areas have overhangs for passive solar gain. The landscaping is all native, drought-resistant plantings. The windows are low-e and insulated.
- It is the first time that federal HOME funds have been used for rental housing on tribal land in New Mexico.
- It is the first time that the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority used its risk-sharing loan on American Indian trust lands. The MFA program allows the authority to underwrite construction and permanent first-mortgage financing that is insured by the Federal Housing Administration.
- It is the first project the housing authority leveraged a variety of funding sources.
- Work closely with Tribal leaders from the beginning, with constant updates
- Make sure when combining funding sources that everyone is on the same page (perhaps even in the same room) – to work through timing, compliance, and expectations
- Review the status of tribal infrastructure and upgrade needs
- Develop a list of qualifications you would like to see in project team members
- Bring on staff to assist with the new development, or train existing staff
- Spend time developing quality RFPs and networking to ensure you bring on board quality consultants and project team members
- If partnering with other organizations, make sure you share the same vision and that all roles and responsibilities are clear
- Plan to spend some time assisting external funding sources on tribal issues or sensitivities, if they have not worked before with tribes
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- Ohkay Owingeh Housing Authority
- Coop + Architects
- ABQ Engineering
- Jonathan Rose & Company
- National Development Council (NDC)
- Deborah Webster
- Mark Berry
- Denise Zuni
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“Tsigo bugeh Village” How to Video
Steps to determine if your organization is ready to implement a tax credit project.
- Do you have the capacity in house to develop the project?
- Is there a need for the project?
- Does the Board and the Tribal Council want to build a development project?
- How knowledgeable are you about tax credit?
- Do you need to find resources outside of the organization to assist with the project?
- Does the Board and Tribal Council need to get educated on tax credits?
- Is there an approved site for the project by Board and Tribal Council?
- Is the project fully supported by all parties?
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FAQs Application and Construction Phase
Create a team to assist with the project.
- Hire architects
- Hire consultants if needed
Perform Charette on project to determine concept and design. With who?
- Project team
- Tribal Administration
- Council members
Start applying for gap funding for project. With who? Need to demonstrate all funding was committed to project in tax credit application. Possible funding sources:
Coordinate meeting on all utilities to assess capacity for new development. Who?
- Gas Company
- Electrical Company
- Water Company
- Cable Company
Start community design meetings to provide input on design. Several meetings performed throughout process. With who?
- Waiting list of families
- Interested community members
- Project team
Start presenting outcome on design to Board and Tribal Council for approval and input. Where at?
- Board meetings
- Tribal Council meetings
Submit tax credit application. How?
- Attend tax credit training
- If needed receive assistance in preparation of application
- Provide all required information and details on project in the order as requested.
Solicit for Investor upon award of tax credits. How?
- Hire Tax Credit Attorney (Mark Berry is excellent)
- Ask MFA for a list of investors
- Submit to possible interested investors
- Interested investor will review your organization and project
- Negotiations begin for sale of tax credits
Put project out to bid. How?
- Develop scope of work and construction drawings include infrastructure
- Perform pre-bid conference
- Perform bid opening
- Award and begin project
Lease Up Phase
- Establish management policies and procedures
- Market project to target area or your community
- Introduce application process if it is a first tax credit project in community
- Accept and perform application process
- Qualify applicants based on selection criteria per funding requirements
- Need to meet lease up deadline by filling all units in the project
- Applicants information cannot be older than three months prior to qualifying to move into a unit
- Lease up process can happen simultaneously as construction is occurring
- Present qualified applicants to Tribal Council (if necessary)
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