Federal grants target mold in tribal housing

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Tribal housing in Alaska will benefit from more than $1 million in grants announced Monday through the federal Housing and Urban Development program to address mold.

Colleen Bickford is the HUD field office director for Alaska. She says $1.6 million was awarded to three tribal entities in the state specifically for mold remediation or prevention in more than 200 tribal homes through improved windows, doors and exteriors.

“But also through this work, insuring that the interior is also adequately ventilated to insure good air quality indoors and that’s where preventing moisture build up which leads to the growth of mold, which is unhealthy so this is kind of a new preventative investment in rural communities.”

In the past HUD had a cookie cutter approach to housing, it built similar structures across the nation regardless of local conditions. But Bickford says that’s changed as HUD realized local entities better understand their own geographic challenges. In Alaska, that has led to more flexibility to incorporate traditional building methods with new cold climate housing science for improved structures.

“Working with the private sector to design housing that fits their geography and their climate and things like that, so we really are not in the driver’s seat anymore with Indian Housing funding.”

Homes with mold problems will be targeted first through assessment by the tribal housing authorities. $800,000 will go to the Cook Inlet Tribal Council, $200,000 to the Yakutat Tlingit tribe and $553,000 to the Craig Tribal Association.

“In the case of Yakutak, they’ve identified 30 beneficiary households that they’re going to target for education and mold remediation programs and that sort of thing.”

Bickford says the other awardees will undertake a similar prioritizing and assessment of housing conditions. Nationally $12.4 million will go to tribal housing authorities to combat poor ventilation and moisture that leads to mold problems.

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Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 24 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director. In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley. She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests. ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori