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My Home Story: A Native American Finds Help

June 17, 2015 | By

June is American Housing Month, and to celebrate we’re featuring your stories on buying or refinancing your home. If you’d like to participate, tweet us a short story and a photo of your home by using the #TheHomeStoryAHM hashtag.

A divorce can be trying on the emotions and on the finances, as Shelly Tucciarelli found out the hard way.

By 2006, the housing and finance consultant had divorced her husband and moved from their home in Indiana to Chicago, where she worked for the Illinois Housing Development Authority. Starting life anew, Tucciarelli wanted to be a homeowner, but the state of her finances complicated matters.

“At that point I didn’t think I was going to find financing because of what I was going through,” said Tucciarelli, 49.

At the time, and unbeknownst to her, there was a program offered by HUD that was available to Native Americans: the Section 184 Indian Home Loan Guarantee Program.

Tucciarelli, a member of the Oneida Tribe of the Indians of Wisconsin, certainly qualified and had the necessary documentation to prove it.

The Section 184 program offers Native Americans like Tucciarelli several advantages when owning a home. There is a low down payment of 2.25 percent on loans over $50,000 (and 1.25 percent for those loans under $50,000). The low interest rates are based on market rates and not on the applicant’s credit score — good news for Tucciarelli, whose credit rating took a hit from the divorce and subsequent bankruptcy.

She had to wait a year to reestablish a credit score before applying for the Section 184 program. She found a one-bedroom condo at the Marina Towers, two circular buildings that are situated in the north bank of the Chicago River. By 2008 she was able to buy that condo with the help of the Section 184 program.

“It’s been great to stabilize myself after the divorce,” says Tucciarelli. “It’s been great having the stability in owning a home,” she adds.

Today Tucciarelli has her own company, Turtle Clan Development, which works with tribal members to help them find affordable housing and focuses on economic development in Indian country.

“There is such a great need for affordable housing in Indian country,” she says.

“Not a lot of tribal members are aware that the [Section 184 program] is available,” says Tucciarelli. “We’ve been working with the tribes to let them know what funds and programs are out there in order for them to become new homeowners,” she says.

“That is key.”




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