Chief Burgett said Huslia needs to keep building to allow the community to expand.
“To have a thriving community, you actually have to have projects year after year, or else you’ll have out-migration,” said Burgett. “So, (for) a community of my size, we have to have anywhere from $2 to $3 million of work annually.”
He said knows jobs are part of that equation too. So, he said, he’s worked hard to keep the labor local. He said the five houses were built with 100% local labor.
“When you do have projects, you can’t hire everybody,” said Burgett. “So, like us, we kind of look at trying to hire one from each family. So, each family benefits from not only somebody getting a house in the community, but actually benefits from one of your family members earning wages.”
New houses don’t become available often and the demand far outstrips supply. The tribe got about 60 applications for the blue-roofed houses.
But for many years, leaders in Huslia have kept costs low for people who want to build their own home. Residents can apply for a free piece of village land.
“They make a request for the lot,” said Burgett. “And they have five years to construct a home but we do not charge for the acre of land or whatever lot is turned over.”
Burgett said for now, he’s grateful that in the past few years, 15 families have gotten new or repaired housing. He’s not sure how funding will come together in the future. But he does know that people in Huslia stay for a reason. The sense of community is strong. And people live a subsistence lifestyle he said would be hard to find in other places.
“In my mind, we’re kind of going against the grain,” he said. “They’re not going to drive us out of the woods. We’re gonna stay here. This is our roots…. It’s a really beautiful community.”
Chief Burgett has one more year in his term and he hopes to see five to seven more homes finished before then.