Sustainable Community Master Planning

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Sustainable Community Master Plan Initiative

In 2012, the Navajo Housing Authority (NHA) undertook the ambitious task of creating a sustainable planning framework for the Navajo Nation, the largest tribal membership and land base in the United States, that includes 5 agencies, 24 regions, and 110 chapters. The goal was to lay out a framework for 34,000 housing units that will satisfy the need for sustainable and cultural housing on the Navajo Nation. This effort included site planning meetings with each agency, followed by planning sessions with each region and its respective chapters.

The impetus for this major first-ever initiative was due to the fact that NHA had no more withdrawn land to build homes upon, and development was limited to only in-fill development. However, the 2011 Navajo Housing Authority (NHA) Housing Needs Assessment estimated a total need for 34,100 new homes with an additional 34,300 in need of major repairs.

Additionally, utility infrastructure is the costliest component for development and NHA needed to share costs for integrated infrastructure for not only housing but local community and economic development in a regional setting approach.

Vernon D. Swaback, managing partner of Swaback Partners is the lead project manager in concert with NHA. At age, 17, Swaback was the youngest apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright a famous American architect, interior designer, writer and educator. Swaback Partners brought together 30 years of extensive experience working with a broad spectrum of groups on community master plans within the United States primarily within the greater southwest.




2013 – September: NHA was recognized by the Arizona Department of Housing as a recipient of the 2013 Brian Mickelsen Housing Hero Award in the Tribal Initiative Category. The Award recognizes outstanding service by individuals and organizations for their commitment to addressing the need for affordable housing throughout the state of Arizona.


2013 – September: American Planning Association (APA) Arizona Chapter awarded the NHA the “Best Regional Plan” for the NHA’s Community Master Planning Initiative. The award honored Arizonans who have made outstanding planning achievements to the planning profession and their communities.


2013 – October: The New Mexico, Arizona and Utah State Chapters of the American Planning Association presented an award to the NHA for the Comprehensive Planning for Sustainable Journey of Beauty Regional Sustainable Community Master Planning Initiative.


2013 – November: The New Mexico State Infrastructure Finance Committee awarded to NHA the Best Practices Award for working partnership with CARE 66 for the first supportive housing in Gallup, New Mexico.


2013 – November: The Minority Enterprise Development awarded NHA an award for the largest volume of construction contract awards to Nativeowned firms.


2014 – April: The NHA accepted an Engineering Excellence Award in the category of water resources, studies, research, and consulting engineering services (Category A). According to American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC), candidates for the award were judged on: original or innovative application of new or existing techniques; future value to the engineering profession and perception by the public; social, economic, and sustainable design considerations; complexity; and exceeding client/owner needs.