Housing Issues

In the United States, home ownership has been the single most important factor in establishing financial health.  In most cases, homes or the assets derived from their sale are inherited. As such, as each generation amasses wealth to buy their own homes, there becomes an opportunity for subsequent generations to accumulate increasing wealth. However, if multiple generations are unable to own their own homes, this single most important lever of getting out, and staying out of poverty, is removed.  Such is the case with a larger percentage of Native Americans than the total population in Minnesota. The statistics below reveal perhaps the most significant reason why fewer Native Americans continue to live in poverty.

Housing Statistics

Owner Occupied Housing

– State of MN Avg. 74%, MN Native Americans Avg. 49%

– Minneapolis Avg. 51%, Native Americans Avg. 23%

– Duluth Avg. 64%, Native Americans Avg. 23%

Financing Housing

Of course, to own a home, one typically must qualify for a loan. And because the ability to obtain acceptable financing depends on having a sufficient income, Native Americans are often unable to make enough money to obtain a mortgage.  The statistics below comparing incomes of Native Americans and Whites underscore the why a higher percentage of Native Americans are unable to purchase homes.

Income Comparison

Median Income: Native Americans – $28,500, Whites – $47,100

Income Less Than $35,000: Native Americans – 58%, Whites – 36%

Income Less Than $15,000: Native Americans – 27%, Whites – 12%


– Urban Indians are three times more likely to be homeless than non-Indians (Source) Harvard Project 2004

Although Native Americans are at most one percent of the Minnesota population, adults make up 10.5 percent of the states homeless population. Native American youth make up 20 percent of the homeless youth population.

Lack of Housing Compounds Other Issues

In 2003, the National American Indian Housing Council determined that about 200,000 housing units were needed. This need in combination with underfunded housing programs and discrimination by mortgage lenders results in Native Americans waiting for years for HUD housing.  In any event HUD housing much of which is not constructed to foster more community-focused life that is part of Native American culture.

As a result of these issues, a much higher percentage of homeless people are Native Americans. In addition, poor housing conditions exist in places where Native Americans can afford to live. Yet the unlivable conditions that may exist including poor waste disposal, rodents, exposed wiring and inadequate heat all compound to negatively impact Native American health and other issues.