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NEWCOMB — Navajo Housing Authority maintenance technician Winston Martinez stood inside a newly-modernized home during an open house Tuesday telling visitors about the new wood stove, and how it will distribute heat throughout the house.

The unit is part of 10 public rentals located west of U.S. Highway 491 in the agency's residential area that underwent renovation and modernization beginning last April.

The work is part of a push by the agency to modernize its residences and rental units on the Navajo Nation.

Sheep Springs resident Tasha Nez was among those who toured the four-bedroom, two-bath home.

"We're just checking out the place – curious," Nez said with a grin.

Attendees walked to the residential area after remarks about the project were made at the Newcomb Chapter house.

Logan Piburn, project manager for Dyron Murphy Architects, talked about the dilapidated conditions the homes were in before the improvement project started last April.

Work included reducing each unit to its frame to check and bring up to code the electrical wiring, plumbing and ventilation systems.

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Among the amenities each house received were energy efficient lighting and new wood stoves, appliances and insulation in the attic and walls.

"That's what modernization means, taking these homes and bringing them up to 21st century standards," Piburn said.

A notable addition is chain link fencing around each unit, which provides privacy for residents and will reduce foot traffic in the area. 

In addition to Newcomb, the agency has modernized homes in Shiprock, Ojo Amarillo and lower Nageezi and in Kayenta, Klagetoh and Kayenta in Arizona.

NHA is in the process of working on houses in Gadii'ahi and in Chilchinbeto, Fort Defiance and Window Rock in Arizona.

The project in Newcomb cost approximately $1.5 million and was funded by the Indian Housing Block Grant. The program is under the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act and was offered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to NHA officials.

Officials said the homes are ready for occupancy and the application process is underway.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said the project will empower the community because it provides modern living standards to residents.

During his remarks, he acknowledged the shortage of available housing on the Navajo Nation, the need to educate tribal members about owning a home and to encourage them to take that step.

"What we want to do is make public rental a stepping stone to owning your own home. You shouldn't be renting your house forever," Nez said, adding NHA and tribal officials have discussed opportunities to promote home ownership.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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