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A Model for Affordable Housing Projects
A Model for Affordable Housing Projects: Social, Cultural and Moral Approaches to the Building Process in Navajo Communities, by Dr. Owen Geiger


With an estimated need of between 20,000 and 30,000 houses on the Navajo Nation, and with 77,326 Navajos (42.9 percent of the population) living below the poverty level with little or no chance of qualifying for a mortgage, most housing programs will have limited success of solving this housing shortage. Rugged terrain, harsh climate, lack of infrastructure, an unemployment rate of 43.65 percent and a per capita income of about 25 percent of surrounding areas compound the Navajo housing problem. Tribal, state and federal governments, housing organizations and the free market system have all failed to solve this housing crisis in large part because the houses they produce are not affordable for those they intend to serve. Current housing programs fail to address the poorest of the poor due to reliance on outside contractors, costly building materials, overly complex house designs and excessive building codes. These programs lack community participation, cultural appropriateness, sustainability, adequate funding and job training.

This project provides a housing model that addresses all these issues. The recommended housing solution is a hands-on training program that builds self-build housing with locally available, natural materials to lower construction costs to a level where housing is affordable for everyone. This housing plan creates jobs, empowers homeowners and provides solutions to the major housing barriers that have held back previous efforts. This plan builds community as well as houses through bringing people together for a common cause, and turns the building process itself into one of celebration that helps restore traditional Native American ways. The building process proposed in this project emphasizes a sustainable approach to housing development using natural building methods such as straw-bale construction. Natural building methods utilize readily available materials such as straw, stone and earth, as opposed to costly imported materials such as milled lumber, steel and concrete. The most effective way to provide affordable and comfortable housing is to utilize low-cost, locally available materials because other alternatives are often prohibitively expensive, impractical or simply unavailable. This housing plan provides a guideline to safe, comfortable, affordable housing that is within the grasp of all Navajos. This model could eventually be adapted for use in other Native American communities, colonias along the US/Mexico border and other communities around the world in need of affordable housing.

This dissertation is now available for $20 USD as a downloadable document in Microsoft Word. Please order by email from our Contact Us page.

A hard copy version can be purchased from Arbor University:

Arbor University
2040 S. Alma School Rd. Ste 1
Chandler, AZ 85248
[email protected]

Crestone, Colorado 81131 Email: Contact Information