The mission of the Mille Lacs Band’s Housing Department is to provide affordable, attractive, safe, and comfortable homes to Mille Lacs Band members.
Housing Director Daniel Boyd is responsible for the daily administration of housing programs and services to Band members. Dan reports directly to Commissioner of Community Development Percy Benjamin.
One of Dan’s jobs is to enforce policies — and there are a lot of Housing Department policies, including an elder policy, disabled housing policy, transitional housing policy, rental admission policy, rental occupancy policy, and drug policy.
In a small community where everybody knows everybody and many are related, it’s important to have an enforcer who plays by the rules. Otherwise, there may be a perception that someone is playing favorites.
"You have to go by the book," said Dan. "That’s what the policies are there for."
Dan accepts that he may be perceived as the "bad guy" at times, and he knows that when Band members are not satisfied with his decision, there’s also a policy that protects them: the grievance policy.
The grievance policy relies on a group of Band members who ensure that the policies are enforced with fairness, but also with sensitivity to extenuating circumstances.
The current Housing Board is composed mostly of Elders (or close to it): District III member Bonnie Matrious, District I member Pam Eagle, and at-large members Reine Garbow, Herb Weyaus, and Janice Taylor. There are currently two open positions, one at large, and one representing District II.
Board members are nominated by the Chief Executive and the four members of Band Assembly: the Secretary-Treasurer and three District Representatives.
The board meets two times per month in rotating locations around the districts, making the board easily accessible to Band members who may not be able to travel 100 miles or more in a day.
Meetings are open to the public.
At a meeting in District III in February, the Housing Board considered several complex situations.
One Band member faced eviction for a series of police calls to their residence.
Another had been denied a spot on the waiting list due to their criminal background.
A third was going through a divorce and wanted to have payments temporarily deferred on a home loan.
Each case was handled with patience but also directness. They weren’t all resolved, but Band members still have options if the Housing Board rejects their claim.
In some cases, the Commissioner can overturn a decision by the Housing Director or Housing Board, and as a last resort, a dispute can be resolved in Tribal Court.
Dan and Percy have instituted several changes since Dan became Housing Director in 2017.
One change was to give the Housing Board a more central role. Previously, the Board was consulted after the Commissioner reviewed a decision by the Housing Director. That put a lot of responsibility on the Commissioner and didn’t give the Board as much of an active role.
Now, Band members who are dissatisfied with one of Dan’s decisions can go right to the board, which is often able to resolve the situation without bringing in the Commissioner.
Previously the waiting lists were very long because no preapproval or regular updates were required. Many on the list no longer qualified or had found other housing.
Applications were often full of missing information, and if someone was at the top of the list but their application wasn’t complete, it might take a long time to get them into a home.
As a result, there was a perception of a housing shortage that wasn’t accurate. "People would look at the list and say, ‘We need more homes,’" said Dan. "But actually we’re overstocked today."
Now, individuals need to complete the application before they can get on the waiting list, and they need to update their application every six months or they will be removed from the list.
Having an up-to-date waiting list means the process of getting Band members into homes is much smoother, so people move up the list much faster.
Next on the agenda, in response to a directive from Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin, is a new transitional housing program for Band members in recovery — a "zero tolerance" neighborhood where substance abuse is not allowed.
The Department is also working on updating the rent-to-own policy in response to another directive from the Chief Executive.
Know Your Government: Community Development
Housing is one of four divisions of the Department of Community Development, which is supervised by Commissioner Percy Benjamin. The Community Development department strives to provide development and improvement services that promote safety, security, and cultural sensitivity while building communities. In addition to housing, the Community Development Department is in charge of construction projects, roads, and infrastructure, including water and sewer. The Commissioner of Community Development is appointed by the Chief Executive and ratified by the Band Assembly.
If you have heating, water, sewer, or other home-related maintenance problems, call the Housing Department at the following numbers:
For after hours emergency service, call 1-866-822-8538, Push 1 for District I, 2 for District II, or 3 for District III.
Or call one of these direct numbers:
District I or IIa: 320-630-2498; District II: 320-630-2492; District III: 320-630-2497.
You can also call Percy Benjamin at 320-630-2496 or Dan Boyd at 320-630-2620.