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HUD Archives: News Releases

HUD No. 99-53
Further Information:For Release
In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-0685Tuesday
Or contact your local HUD officeMarch 30, 1999


CHICAGO - Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo today unveiled a new Native American Housing and Economic Development Initiative to improve life on Indian reservations by creating more jobs, affordable housing and homeownership.

Cuomo said the initiative will go far beyond most federal programs by enabling tribal governments to create non-profit groups that will be able to apply for a share of more than $1 billion in annual assistance under several major HUD programs. Because only local governments and non-profit groups are eligible for the funding, tribal governments have been unable to benefit from the programs - even though Indian reservations have high poverty and unemployment rates, as well as great housing needs.

The Secretary made the announcement in Chicago at a Summit on Native American Homeownership, Legal and Economic Development. Over 700 representatives from dozens of tribes are at the Summit, which was organized by HUD's Office of Native American Programs.

"This initiative will be a partnership between Indian Nations and the United States government to work together for the benefit of Native Americans," Cuomo said. "We will bring new opportunity to families on reservations by empowering them to build stronger economies, new homes and better lives."

"For too long, the first Americans have been locked out of the American Dream," Cuomo added. "Prosperity should not stop at the reservation line."

"Secretary Cuomo is taking strong steps that recognize the right of Indian Nations to find their own solutions to our housing and economic development problems, and the obligation of the United States government to help our efforts succeed," said Chester Carl, Chair of the National American Indian Housing Council and Executive Director of the Navajo Housing Authority.

To underscore HUD's strong commitment to Native Americans, Cuomo announced that HUD will sponsor a follow-up summit in late July and early August on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, home of the Oglala Lakota Tribe. The conference will be the first Native American housing conference to be held on a reservation. In addition, a Home Build will be held in which volunteers build or rehabilitate homes for 50 low-income Oglala families.

Under the Native American Housing and Economic Development Initiative announced today, tribal non-profit groups will be eligible to apply for:

  • Rural Economic Development grants, which leverage private and public dollars with federal funds for innovative efforts to create jobs, build affordable housing, and boost homeownership. Tribal non-profit groups will receive a special preference that will increase their chances of receiving a portion of the $27 million in funding under the program this year.

  • Assistance to create and subsidize housing for low-income senior citizens and low-income people with disabilities, under HUD's Section 202 and Section 811 programs.

  • Grants to provide homeless people with housing, job training, education, substance abuse treatment, mental health services, child care and other services to help them get permanent housing and jobs to become self-sufficient.

  • Assistance under the Youthbuild program, which provides job training in homebuilding skills, along with educational opportunities, to unemployed high school drop-outs ages 16-24. This enables the young people to get good jobs in the construction industry.

  • Grants for housing and support services for low-income people with HIV/AIDS and members of their households under the Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS program.

  • Grants to non-profit groups under the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program to buy home sites and improve the infrastructure needed to set the stage for sweat-equity and volunteer-based homeownership programs for low-income families.

The Native American Housing and Economic Development Initiative will also increase Indian homeownership by making reduced-cost mortgages available through Ginnie Mae's Targeted Lending Initiative on tribal lands. Ginnie Mae is a government-owned corporation within HUD that increases the supply of affordable housing by guaranteeing securities issued by private lenders and backed by pools of residential mortgages insured or guaranteed by the U.S. government.

The summer conference on the Pine Ridge Reservation announced today will be called the Shared Visions Summit, and will build on the summit being held in Chicago. It will focus on ways that tribes, the federal government, lenders, the homebuilding industry and other groups can work in partnership to solve the desperate shortage of affordable housing on many reservations, and on ways to increase Indian homeownership.

The Home Build that will take place at the same time will bring together hundreds of volunteers to build or rehabilitate about 50 homes, and will serve as a model for similar efforts on other reservations. Oglala families will buy the homes completed in the Home Build.

The Shared Visions Summit and the Home Build are being supported by HUD, the Oglala Lakota Tribe, the National Congress of American Indians, the National American Indian Housing Council, Habitat for Humanity, the Mortgage Bankers Association of America, the National Association of Home Builders, the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Interior Department's Bureau of Indian Affairs, and others.

Cuomo said the Native American Housing and Economic Development Initiative also includes proposals recommended in a report by an Interagency Task Force to further help families on reservations more easily obtain home mortgages. Cuomo released the report today, as part of the process of consulting with tribes to get their views on the proposals.

Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, whose Department was on the Task Force, said: "USDA will be a key partner in a renewed effort to meet the growing need for improved housing and economic development on Native American reservations. USDA Rural Development programs will provide financial resources and technical assistance to Native Americans."

The Task Force was chaired by HUD and the Treasury Department, and also included the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and other public and private organizations. The Task Force report details proposals to increase the rate of homeownership among Native Americans, including:

  • Ensuring the protection of Indian Trust Lands so that defaults of mortgages insured by the federal government would not cost a tribe its land. If a homeowner defaults on a mortgage, the land would be held in trust until another tribal member is found to buy the home.

  • Creating a financial intermediary to provide homebuyer counseling, loan education, loss mitigation, and liaison to the private housing sector to stimulate increased homeownership on reservations and to help coordinate the efforts of lenders, sellers and buyers.

  • Streamlining lending procedures and coordinating the work of federal agencies that provide mortgages on reservations, as well as combining HUD's Native American loan programs into one program. For example, an interagency agreement will allow tribes to gain federal approval for tribal laws affecting homeownership through one federal agency's review process. In addition, federal agencies have agreed to coordinate lender and tribal training on federal mortgage insurance and assistance programs - instead of holding separate seminars for each agency.

Currently, homeownership is virtually non-existent on reservations because: 1) Lenders are often reluctant to approve mortgages for the purchase of homes on land held in trust by the federal government for tribes. 2) Federal regulations and paperwork slow down and complicate the process of obtaining a home mortgage. 3) Tribal families lack homeownership counseling to help them with financial planning, credit, downpayments and other issues involved in the mortgage process.

The shortage of affordable housing is at crisis levels on many reservations around the country. The National American Indian Housing Council estimates an immediate need for about 200,000 homes on tribal lands. Over 40 percent of the housing on tribal lands is considered substandard - six times the rate of the rest of the country. In addition, 21 percent of homes on reservations are overcrowded - nearly 10 times the proportion elsewhere.

As part of today's activities in Chicago, Cuomo was adopted into the Tlingit Tribe of Southeast Alaska. In a naming ceremony to welcome him into the tribe, Tlingit Tribal Elder Paul Marks bestowed the name aan kadax tseen on Cuomo. The name means Where the Birds Come Together, and signifies Cuomo's role as a leader, referring to the leader of a flock of birds.

The Tlingit were one of the Alaska Native tribes that Cuomo visited last summer, along with the Oglala and Lower Brule Lakota Tribes in South Dakota. In both states, Cuomo saw first-hand how many families live in extremely overcrowded and deteriorated housing and have very high unemployment and poverty rates.

Jackie Johnson, Director of HUD's Office of Native American Programs for the past two years, is a member of the Tlingit Tribe and is the first Native American to head the HUD office.

In addition, Cuomo said that eight of HUD's new Community Builder Fellows - experienced professionals who serve for two years at HUD and work to revitalize America's communities - are Native Americans. The Community Builders and their tribes are: Melissa Robinson (Omaha and Chickahominy), Emma Iron Plume-Clifford (Oglala Lakota), John Johnston (Choctaw), Iris Friday (Tlingit-Haida), Curtis Harris (San Carlos Apache), William Miles (Pamunkey), Valerie Hayes (Cherokee), and Tony Looking Elk (Oneida).

The new Native American Housing and Economic Development Initiative is in the spirit of the 1996 Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act, which gives tribes a much greater role in determining how federal funds are used on reservations.

The Act allows tribes for the first time to receive funds directly from HUD instead of through the regional housing authorities. It also enables Native Americans to plan and create their own programs and initiatives that include new home construction, job training, housing rehabilitation, energy auditing, crime prevention, and safety activities.

The three-day Summit on Native American Homeownership, Legal and Economic Development being held in Chicago is examining a number of legal, housing and economic development issues affecting Native Americans, including: 1) Key issues in rental housing. 2) How to create economic development programs. 3) Important tools for setting up and running a homeownership program. 4) Basic information for providing counseling and education to homebuyers. 5) Legal issues affecting Indian Country.

Content Archived: January 20, 2009

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