Augusta Liddic/The Daily TimesThe South Shiprock Housing Inc. development has been abandoned for several years and may not be fixed.
Augusta Liddic/The Daily Times The South Shiprock Housing Inc. development has been abandoned for several years and may not be fixed. (Augusta Liddic)
SHIPROCK — Almost a decade has passed since millions of dollars were invested to build 90 homes at the south end of Shiprock. Today, most sit empty, seriously damaged by weather and vandalism.

Little is left of their windows, their walls, or their interiors. Inside, the floors are littered with glass, the walls painted with graffiti.

All of them are broken and more than a dozen, completely burned to the ground.

About $18 million is set aside to fix them today. But, that money may not be available tomorrow.

History behind

the homes

What some now call "the eyesore of Shiprock," once was going to be the envy of Shiprock.

It was supposed to be a housing development for low-income families and veterans.

The homes, though, are fairly high-end for the area. Stucco exteriors, wooden interiors, tile flooring. All of them set up for running water and electricity, ammenities that many area residents lack.

"The development has a really negative history," said Russell Begaye, a Navajo Nation Council delegate from Shiprock.

If something is not done soon, the development may get stuck in that history, Begaye said, forever.

About a year ago, the Navajo Housing Authority, the tribe's affordable housing entity, set aside $18 million to fix the homes. If it is not used soon, however, the authority may pull that money for other projects.

The authority did not start the project, but it has invested $11 million, according to earlier reports from The Daily Times.


The authority receives up to $90 million a year for such projects around the reservation. Funding comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Navajo American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act.

South Shiprock Housing originally was in charge of the project, and it still is. However, after the company began the project in December 2004, it ran into serious trouble.

One of the project subcontractors, Lodgebuilder, went belly up after a lawsuit filed by the Fort Defiance Housing Corporation.

Augusta Liddic/The Daily TimesA house in the South Shiprock Housing development is damaged by weather and vandalism.
Augusta Liddic/The Daily Times A house in the South Shiprock Housing development is damaged by weather and vandalism. (Augusta Liddic)

Lodgebuilder's misfortune not only slowed South Shiprock Housing's efforts, it also put their operation at risk. The company began to have its own financial troubles.

In 2006, everything ground to a halt.

Not until March 2012 did the authority return to the matter. By that time, many of the homes were total losses.

--Damage done

Touring the rows of homes that once symbolized a bright future for Shiprock residents, it is apparent that they now represent something far different.

"You see guys destroying them. You don't know if they are drunk," said Heather Abeita, who lives across the street from some of the skeletal structures.

While only about half of the homes were finished or close to being finished, many of them were severely damaged.

Only one or two homes are being lived in, though the residents decline to say how they acquired the homes. They have been instructed to refer all questions to the housing authority, one resident said this week.

Abeita and other neighbors said that people stop by all the time, asking how they could get a house. They say they would even fix it up themselves. Some even tried talking to the housing authority about it, but the authority turned them away, neighbors said.

"It feels like, "Gosh. Why can't someone do something?' There's a lot of people that don't have no homes," Abeita said.

The damage done to each of the homes ranges from $100,000 to $240,000 per home, according to a report from WH Pacific, an Albuquerque-based company that assessed the homes last year.

Much of the damage is believed to have been done by vagrants, teenagers, and robbers who frequent the homes.

The insides of the homes are evidence that no good is done within.

Many of the structures have been stripped of their water heaters, air conditioners, and other appliances.

The kitchens are somewhat intact and one can imagine someone cooking or cleaning, but such day dreams are easily broken by the sound of glass underfoot or the sight of a pile of empty beer cans.

Profanity also decorates the walls, some of it written by the carbon in a lighter's flame.

The outsides are just as bad, with doors missing, garage doors bashed in and holes punched through the walls.

"They're just getting vandalized and burnt," said Abeita. 

--Building a future

The authority and South Shiprock Housing met last year in March and agreed that the authority would take over the project until the repairs were complete. The authority was to repair everything up to its own standards, and it would return the oversight of the development to the company when repairs were complete, according to Begaye.

"(The authority) would provide all funds to fix the houses," Begaye said.

Everything seemed to be on track. The authority signed the agreement and South Shiprock Housing agreed to the plan. But South Shiprock never signed the agreement. And there has been no progress on the repairs.

It just does not make sense," said Begaye. "We should have people working on those houses right now."

The authority and the company are expected to meet again March 7, to try to iron out any remaining problems, according to housing authority spokesman Christian Bigwater. Bigwater had no further comment on the matter Friday, and representatives from South Shiprock Housing did not return calls this week.

Begaye believes the company may want to do the repairs itself so that it regains credibility, he said, though he worries that if the company does not follow through with the agreement, the houses will never get fixed.

And, the money will not be available forever.

If the $18 million is not used soon, the money will be re-allocated to other housing authority projects. The money is only available for two years after the authority sets it aside, meaning the company only has a year left to use it, Begaye said. One year to make $18 million worth of repairs to 90 homes.

The authority already is threatening to shift the money to a youth center in Dilkon, Ariz.

Without the money, the houses likely will spend another decade, if not longer, without attention. Together, weather and vandals will continue to take a toll -- possibly to the point that the millions of dollars invested will be completely wasted.

"Time is moving," Begaye said.