The Navajo Housing Authority and South Shiprock Housing agreed Thursday to demolish every single home, even the one that people currently live in.
The housing authority and the property management company came together during a special meeting in Window Rock to decide whether the housing authority would provide the funding to repair the homes, which were built nearly 10 years ago.
South Shiprock Housing abandoned the project after one of its subcontractors went under amid allegations of mismanagement and embezzlement. The allegations caused financial and managerial trouble for South Shiprock Housing as well.
The homes, as they were many of them almost complete cost about $9 million to build, according to Earl Tulley, the housing authority's chief operations officer. The total cost to repair the homes would have been about $18 million, if not more, according to WH Pacific, an Albuquerque-based company that assessed the homes last year.
Though the authority will never get that initial investment back, it is providing about $9.3 million more to tear the homes down, and then rebuild them. The authority will provide more funding later, but no one could say how much more.
All of the funding, both past and present for the project, comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Navajo American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act.
The agreement, however, did move the project forward at least on paper, which has happened before.
A little more than a year ago, the two parties met and made the decision to repair the homes and nothing happened after that agreement.
The housing authority signed the agreement, but South Shiprock Housing did not. South Shiprock Housing received the document in October, but had a few questions.
Primarily, the company wanted assurance that the housing authority would turn the development back over after it completed construction, according to Nick Tinnin, the leaseholder for the property. It also wanted to make sure that the authority would absorb any and all costs during the demolition and construction phases.
"All we want is to go on-site and do the work properly," said Aneva Yazzie, chief executive officer for the housing authority.
The housing authority will, however, be completely in charge of the homes and the site during demolition and construction, meaning no one can be on the properties without the housing authority's permission. That includes the family living in one of the homes that, for the most part, was completed.
"It's a liability," Tulley said, noting that the family will be relocated during the home's reconstruction.
Every single home will be reconstructed based on the original plans.
"We will fill the footprint," Tulley said.
Feelings are mixed in the Shiprock community.
"We feel so small in this scenario," said Duane "Chili" Yazzie, Shiprock Chapter president, speaking on behalf of the community.
Community members, many of whom have dubbed the current development as the "eye sore" of Shiprock, were wary of spending any more on it.
Many of the homes are beyond repair, burned down, bashed in, and ripped apart. Graffiti covers the walls and trash litters the floors.
"I look over there. I live near there," said Maxine Bowman, board secretary for South Shiprock Nonprofit Housing. Bowman, who is saddened by the sight of the homes, said she supported the demolition because the homes far too ruined for repair.
Others are lifted by the decision because it will make the neighborhood safer, a priority considering the proximity of several schools. Many children walk through the area after school.
"Students have sent me letters and emails about those houses," said Russell Begaye, Navajo Nation Council delegate from Shiprock. "They feel ashamed sometimes when people come visit them and pass by those houses."
Leaders could not guess when demolition and construction would begin, though the housing authority will be seeking bids by April, Tulley said. Once they have contracted jobs out, they will precede the demolition with a groundbreaking, possibly allowing some people to take a sledgehammer to some of the homes before putting a shovel in the ground.
"Everyone of those units is going to have to be taken down and built from the ground up," Tulley said. "We're not going to piecemeal this. I can tell you one thing, they will be built in better condition."
Jenny Kane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4636. Follow her on Twitter @Jenny_Kane