The Wiyot tribe is reclaiming their rightful land in Eureka, California, and now they plan on creating affordable housing. The Indigenous community has put in place a land trust that will help vulnerable and unhoused members of the Wiyot tribe obtain affordable housing. The group has spent decades trying to retrieve their homeland back from the government.
In an article for Dwell, the chairperson of the Wiyot tribe, Ted Hernandez, shared the history the Wiyot tribe has with the coastal Northern California city. The Wiyot tribe once occupied the city until they were massacred by white settlers in 1860. Ever since 1999, members of the tribe have been buying the land.
“This has been an intergenerational movement to heal the island, to heal our people, to heal our community. Today we make history together,” Hernandez said in a news conference among Eureka’s city leaders the day the last land was returned in 2019. “We changed their story.”
The Wiyot Tribe Affordable Housing Plan
Both Hernadez and Michelle Vassel, who serves as the tribal administrator, recognize that reclaiming their ancestral homeland is just the first step. The next step is to provide long-term transitional and affordable housing with rent prices that won’t hike throughout the years.
Currently, the California median home price is roughly $751,000, according to the California Association of Realtors.
“Our people are being priced out of the local housing market, so just think about that, the depth of that,” says Vassel. “The people that have been here for hundreds of thousands of years can’t afford to live here anymore—and that’s happening all across California in Indian Country.”
The Wiyot people secured a community land trust (CLT) in February 2020. According to Dwell, CLTs are “nonprofit development corporations representing residents of a certain area.” The trusts are created to create public housing and other community amenities. Members of the Wiyot community will have the option to rent or buy, and their leases will be valid for 99 years.
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