By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
One Feather Asst. Editor
WHITTIER, N.C. – Sixteen housing units opened on Lambert Wilson Way in Whittier, N.C. following a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the warm afternoon of Wednesday, July 26. The units set on a 5.34 acre tract of land that is the site of the former Whittier School and are a project of the Cherokee Indian Housing Division of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI).
The property was purchased for $300,000, which was under the appraisal price, with the passage of Res. No. 511 on March 12, 2019. According to that resolution, “The property is suitable for housing and has been appraised at $350,000 which takes into account the cost of demolition.”
During Wednesday’s event, Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed thanked the Housing staff for their diligence with the project. “When we first started discussing even purchasing the property, we knew there was going to be a pretty significant expense in getting the old school taken down – there was lead paint abatement, asbestos abatement – but we were fortunate we got the property below appraised. And with what we had to put into the demo of the old school, that brought us right to appraised value.”
“The one thing we should all be very proud of is that when we put the applications out for rentals, we made sure everybody who got a rental here is an enrolled member of the Tribe. So, we know our folks need housing. We’d love to be able to get more housing on Boundary, but we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do – look for more projects off-Boundary as well as on.”
Vice Chief Alan B. Ensley commented, “The Housing Department has grown more so in the last five or 10 years than ever before. I appreciate all the hard work. The best work is yet to come.”
Edwin Taylor, EBCI Secretary of Housing, said that all 16 units have been rented. “We’re so short on inventory either for low-income or market rate that as soon as we open them up for advertisement, we’ve got a waiting list waiting. We did a housing lottery on this one. We ran it for two weeks and we had 49 applications for 16 units. The way that we selected them is that we did a random lottery draw on them with a number generator to give everybody an equal and fair opportunity. We’ve tried to keep it as fair and transparent as possible while people are being added to our inventory.”
Secretary Taylor said they currently have 450 units in their Housing Division inventory and have added 130 recently on the market rate side.
“We probably have a need for 300 more houses like this. That’s how many people we have on our waiting list for like Road to Soco, and Chief Flying Squirrel. The demand is out there. We’ve just got to be able to get the units on the ground in a timely manner.”
The Housing Division is currently in the development of Phase 2 of the Whittier project which will have another 16 units as well. Taylor said they hope to break ground on that part of the project in early spring 2024.