U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge visited Kenai Wednesday to announce a major federal grant for local tribes. She appeared at the Kenaitze Indian Tribe’s year-old educational campus to announce $7.5 million for an affordable housing project.
“So today, as a leader in the Biden-Harris administration, it is my responsibility to do all that I can to do all I can to support your right to not just live, but to thrive,” Fudge said during a press conference.
The money will go to a special group that represents two Kenai-area tribes, Kenaitze and Salamatof. It will fund an 18-unit elder housing project in Kenai.
So far this year, the program says it has served almost 200 households in areas like student housing and homelessness prevention. It also helps with services like snow plowing, fire safety and urgent home repairs.
Kaarlo Wik, chairperson for that Kenaitze-Salamatof housing entity, said the elder housing has been a dream for 20 years, and thanked the Biden-Harris administration and Fudge for their support of tribal interests.
“I’m so honored to have acknowledgement from the administration, to come to our area and come see us,” he said. “We don’t get visits up in the great white north too often from Washington, and it’s truly appreciated.”
The money is part of a broader package of $128 million distributed across 22 tribes, and intended for affordable housing development. It comes from the Indian Housing Block Grant, which provides funding for housing infrastructure on reservations and related areas. The Tlingit Haida Regional Housing Authority in Juneau is also receiving $7.5 million from this award.
After announcing the money, Fudge toured buildings on the Kenaitze campus, including the wellness center and elder center. She visited the housing office and met with Tribal members who have been impacted by the housing program.
“I tell people all the time, when you work with people, you don’t do it to make money, you do it because you care,” Fudge told housing office staff. “So thank you for caring and doing the hard work you do, because I know how hard it is.”
Fudge is the latest of several cabinet secretaries to visit Alaska this summer to promote federal funding. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Attorney General Merrick Garland both visited multiple Alaska communities this August.