National Congress of American Indians
2007 Executive Council Winter Sessions

Remarks as prepared for Alphonso Jackson

February 27, 2007

Thank you, Lt. Governor and First Vice President for N-C-A-I Jefferson Keel, for the generous introduction and for your leadership.

It is also good to be speaking today with my fellow Secretary [Jim] Nicholson and with so many distinguished members of Congress and honorable leaders.

To all the tribal leaders present, thank you for the kind invitation to address you all this morning. I am honored to be here for N-C-A-I's Executive Council Winter Session and to talk with you about HUD and some of the key issues affecting Native Americans across our nation.

The strength of a nation comes from its people. Since our nation's birth, we have celebrated diversity and pluralism, which are cornerstones of the American experience. American Indians and Alaskan Native cultures have made tremendous contributions to our national identity and success, far beyond your tribal communities. And, I know that you will continue to enrich our nation with your rich ancestry, languages, and traditions.

Today, I want to extend special thanks and gratitude to those Native Americans who have served and continue to serve in our Nation's military. These brave individuals have risked their lives to protect our citizens and defend our democracy. Their courage is a source of great pride for all of us. We keep them in our thoughts and prayers today and always.

President Bush has shown his commitment to ensure that American Indians have access to all the opportunities of this great land. He has provided funding to help Native American schools improve and succeed. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is providing education for approximately 46 thousand American Indian and Alaska-Native children.

And to help keep Native Americans safe, he proposed an increase in law enforcement personnel and remains committed to improve law enforcement facilities in American-Indian communities.

He pledged during National American Indian Heritage Month last year, "to continue to work on a government-to-government basis with tribal governments, honor the principles of tribal sovereignty and the right to self-determination, and help ensure America remains a land of promise for American Indians, Alaskan Natives, and all our citizens."

At HUD, we share the President's promise, and are committed to partnering with you to create and sustain strong Native American communities through creative and effective housing and community development programs.

Over the past six years, HUD has made great progress in carrying out the President's housing agenda and becoming an agent of empowerment, compassion, and opportunity. We have focused our work on three priorities: expanding homeownership, especially among minorities; improving access to affordable housing, free from discrimination; and strengthening communities, with a special focus on ending chronic homelessness.

One of the Administration's top priorities is to ensure that everyone in America can share in the dream of homeownership. And the Administration's efforts are working. We have seen homeownership, and minority homeownership, reach historic levels.

Homeownership and the ability to build equity in one's home is an important component in the development of strong communities everywhere, including on tribal lands.

As part of the FY 2008 budget request, President Bush and I are seeking more than $698 million specifically for Native American and Native Hawaiian housing, loan guarantees and community development.

The Section 184 Indian Housing Loan Guarantee Fund will receive more than $7 million in credit subsidies, which will support $367 million in loan guarantee authority. These funds will help even more Native American families and tribes to purchase, construct, or acquire single-family homes on Indian lands.

In FY 2006, the Section 184 Program guaranteed 1,138 single-family loans to Native American homebuyers, which represents a $190 million investment in Indian country. This represents an 80 percent increase in the number of loans guaranteed when compared to 2005, and a 90 percent increase in the dollars invested.

To date this year, 365 loans have already been guaranteed for more than $57 million, a 45 percent increase over the same period in 2006. That's good news.

The Indian Community Development Block Grant program's proposed funding level is more than $57 million; and the proposed funding for the Indian Housing Block Grant program, which continues to be the largest single source of housing capital in Indian country, is more than $626 million.

Since 1998, the I-H-B-G program, has now distributed more than $5.7 billion in funding.

But relying on Indian Housing Block Grants alone, without leveraging these dollars, misses a great opportunity.

HUD's Native American programs can promote economic development. By using homeownership and the development of affordable housing as vehicles to attract other sources of capital, we can contribute to the growth of Native American communities. I encourage everyone to look beyond your grant funding and seek to leverage your funds with other sources of capital.

Today, there are more ways to leverage federal funds than ever before. We encourage tribes to pursue opportunities such as low-income housing tax-credits and other federal and state programs, and to seek partnerships with the private sector. The results will be more homes for your people.

A new program that can help is the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act's bond financing program. This new program will provide tribes a means to leverage their Indian Housing Block Grant dollars to address immediate housing needs. The Office of Native American Programs now has a process in place for tribes to apply to leverage up to one-third of their annual block grant funds for bond financing, This program will assist tribes in meeting housing needs in a shorter time frame by accessing more funds up front rather than accumulating funds over time through I-H-B-G alone.

The ability of tribes to use housing bonds will promote self-sufficiency, support tribal economies, and address the basic needs of the community.

The Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act's Title VI Tribal Housing Activities Loan Guarantee Fund would receive almost $2 million in credit subsidy, which will leverage $17 million in loan guarantee authority.

The Department fully supports the reauthorization of all the Native American housing and loan guarantee programs that are due for reauthorization.

A very important part of Native American communities are tribal colleges and universities. These universities serve not only as institutes of higher education, but also as great archives for tribal knowledge and culture.

In remote regions, these colleges and universities sometimes provide residents with not only education, but also with health programs, job training, and economic development activities.

HUD's Office of University Partners awards grants to tribal colleges and universities to help address the needs of the Native American populations they serve, and to build, expand, renovate and equip their facilities to provide these needed services to the community. T-C-Us have used grant funds for a variety of projects, including additional classrooms, child development centers, libraries, student centers, cultural centers, health and wellness centers, technology centers, and office space.

Since the inception of TCUP in 2001, HUD has provided more than $17 million in grants to tribal colleges. In FY 2007, approximately $2.9 million will be made available for TCUP grants.

The FY 2008 Budget also provides $25 million for the University Partnership grant programs to assist minority-serving institutions in implementing a broad-range of community and economic development activities. This includes funding for tribal colleges and universities.

Finally, let me state once again, that this Administration is deeply committed to honoring the principle of government-to-government relations with Indian tribes, and we are working hard to get better results, and to be more understanding of local needs and experiences.

As we implement programs in your communities, we will judge our success by the lives we have helped to change through our mission of compassionate service to others: the young families who have taken out their first mortgage and become homeowners, the homeless individuals who are no longer homeless, the neighborhoods that have found new hope and the communities once facing a shortage of affordable housing that now have enough homes for all.

Working together, we can continue to prove that the American Dream is something available to everyone in every neighborhood in this country. We will continue to prove that the American Dream is not an unattainable goal. I know this, because I see it achieved every day. And, we will continue to prove that with the right tools and the right opportunities that people can improve their communities as they travel the road to achieving their own American dream.

I urge you to continue pursuing your goals, to continue to create progress, and to continue making a difference in the lives of Native American families across this country. Your actions make your communities and our nation stronger.

And, as President of N-C-A-I Joe Garcia recently said, "I look to 2007 with confidence because the state of the Indian Nations is strong-stronger than it ever has been."

Thank you.

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