Home | En Español | Contact Us | A to Z 

National Congress of American Indians
2003 Executive Council Winter Session

Remarks Prepared for Delivery by
Secretary Mel Martinez

Washington, D.C.
February 24, 2003

Tex (Hall), thank you for that generous introduction. It's an honor to be here this afternoon to help you kick off NCAI's Executive Council Winter Session and to talk with you about HUD and some of the key issues impacting Native Americans nationwide.

Our world has changed remarkably over the last year and a half. Our country was attacked and we can no longer rely on the oceans to protect the safety of our shores and our people. But through these difficult days, America has emerged more resolved and more united.

Since then, this nation - guided by the leadership of our President - has dedicated itself to the task of defending the American people from further harm and defeating terrorists wherever they operate and hide. Whatever the duration of this war on terror, and whatever the difficulties, we will persevere.

The Native American community's contributions to our nation's security have been historically documented and that tradition endures today as large numbers of Native Americans serve in our military. Your patriotism shines through and it is important that we as a nation recognize this.

You come to our national capitol during a time of great consequence for all Americans. And as President Bush said during his State of the Union address, "these are decisive days that lay ahead…our faith is sure, our resolve is firm, and our union is strong."

What we must not allow is the confluence of two evils - weapons of mass destruction and terrorist killers -- willing to do harm to our people.

The strength of a nation comes from its people. Since our Nation's birth, pluralism and diversity have been hallmarks of the American experience and American Indians and Alaskan Native cultures have made remarkable contributions to our national identity and success story. And as we move into the 21st century, you will continue to make great contributions to this country and to your communities.

The President has pledged to work with tribal governments on a sovereign-to-sovereign basis to provide Native Americans with new opportunities. And we are committed to working with you to preserve your freedoms, your traditions and your cultures.

At HUD, we play an important role in building the economic strength of this nation… creating prosperous communities… and empowering families to achieve financial security.

In the past two years, HUD has made great progress in carrying out President Bush'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… strengthening communities, with a special focus on ending chronic homelessness.

We are proud of the fact that we are making a real difference in people's lives and are looking forward to participating in the negotiated rulemaking meeting this Spring.

One of the Administration's top priorities is to make homeownership a viable option for every American who wants to own a home. And homeownership reached record levels last year. But we can do better.

As members of tribes, with sovereign status under our Constitution, the Native American communities will benefit from our focus on expanding homeownership.
Since 1961 HUD has provided assistance to Native American communities in a variety of programs administered by the Office of Native American Programs (ONAP). We have developed and are expanding policies to "bridge the gap" for those that do not have the resources they need to share fully in the opportunities freedom affords.

Under the direction of PIH Assistant Secretary Michael Liu, the Office of Native American Programs consists of our Headquarters staff here in Washington, a National Programs Office located in Denver, and six Area ONAPs in Chicago, Oklahoma City, Denver, Phoenix, Seattle and Anchorage.

As part of the FY 2004 Budget Request, President Bush and I are seeking $738.7 million specifically designated to assist Native Americans. Let me point out that the FY '03 HUD appropriations Act contains $746.7 million for these programs. The differential of $8 million occurs from reductions to the Section 184 and Title VI loan guarantee programs, which are currently underutilized.

As you know, the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act (NAHASDA) became law in 1996 to reorganize the system of housing assistance that HUD provides to Native Americans. NAHASDA eliminated a number of separate assistance programs and replaced them with the Indian Housing Block Grant program.

Congress passed amendments to NAHASDA in September, and President Bush sign them into law last November. The amendments include NAHASDA's reauthorization through 2007 and a number of other important changes.

One of my top priorities since joining HUD has been to find ways to respect and strengthen the government-to-government relationship that exists between the tribes and HUD.

To further that goal, we are preparing to again engage in negotiated rulemaking to update and improve the Indian Housing Block Grant Program's formula allocation process. And we want to be flexible.

When we discovered that tribes wanted a larger number of negotiated rulemaking committee members, we expanded the committee from 19 to 26 members. And putting the NAHASDA funding formula before the negotiated rulemaking committee is something that we are proud of.

The Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG) Program allows these funds to be used for housing construction and acquisition to meet critical housing shortages, and for modernizing and maintaining existing housing units. It also provides direct tenant rental subsidies and other housing services for crime prevention, safety and for unit administration, as well as set-asides for training and technical assistance.

In fact, the total request in the President's budget for technical assistance and training was $2 million higher than the '03 request and $1 million more than the Congress passed in the recent omnibus appropriations bill. Assisting tribes and tribal institutions in further developing their own capacity is a priority for HUD and we look forward to finding new, more collaborative methods to accomplish this.

The Title VI loan guarantee program is available to grant recipients in need of additional funds to engage in affordable housing activities. It provides a mechanism for tribes and tribally designated housing entities to leverage IHBG funds to secure financing by pledging future block grants as security for repayment of loans.

A private lender or investor provides the loan, and the 95 percent government guarantee ensures repayment in the event of default. If there is a default, the government will seek repayment through the borrower's IHBG funds.

This program still has over $200 million in credit authority yet unused, which is why we are only seeking $1 million in credit subsidy for the coming Budget Year.

Our Section 184 Program provides a 100 percent guarantee for loans to income-eligible and credit-worthy Native American families and tribes to purchase, construct or acquire single family homes on Indian lands. The reluctance of the private lending market to engage in mortgage lending on trust land prompted creation of the program in 1992.

The program has made homeownership a reality for many Native American families and the 100 percent guarantee, combined with lower closing costs, is attractive to both lenders and borrowers. The program has succeeded in providing opportunities for lower- and moderate-income families living on reservations to move from subsidized housing units, thus freeing up that housing for use by low-income families.

However, this is yet another program that is underutilized - we still have over $1 billion of credit authority in this program.

Another program that we have at HUD to assist Native American families seeking homeownership is the Federal Housing Administration's Section 248 program.

For decades FHA has played a vital role in assisting families throughout the country. Despite the success of FHA nationwide, the Section 248 program has helped only a handful of families in Indian Country. A homeownership program that does not help families means nothing. I would welcome your input on how to improve this program so that FHA can play as important a role in Native American communities as it does throughout the rest of America.

The Indian CDBG program is available to federally recognized Indian tribes and to certain tribal organizations. Eligible activities include housing, community facilities and economic development. Annual grants are competitive, and up to five percent of each year's appropriations may be set aside to fund imminent threats to health and safety.

$3 million is also set aside to assist Tribal Colleges and Universities to build, expand, renovate, and equip their facilities, especially those that are used by or available to the larger community. A particular Tribal College or University can request and be awarded as much as $400,000.

Finally, let me state again that this Administration is deeply committed to honoring the principle of government-to-government relations with Indian tribes; we support tribal sovereignty and self-determination.

We at HUD are working hard to be more results-focused, more accountable and more understanding of local needs and experiences.

As we implement these 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.

We can best achieve this by empowering communities and families to make decisions that best meet local needs. And our aim is to make HUD a better steward of the taxpayers' dollars by insisting on completion, performance and results.

As the President said during his June 2002 visit to HUD headquarters, "Our collective job is to make sure that [the] notion of the American Dream extends into every single neighborhood around this country."

The American Dream is not some unattainable goal, and I know this because I see it achieved every day, so often by families who never imagined owning their own home or reaching economic self-sufficiency.

Through our work at HUD - and the continued commitment of President Bush - all citizens will have new tools and opportunities they can put to work improving both their lives and their communities as they travel the road to achieving their own American Dream.

In pursuing our destiny, I urge you to be bold - to continue speaking out and making a difference for Native American families across this country.

Our nation is united and strong. And As Tex Hall stated recently, you, the tribes of America, are "alive, well and strong."

Thank you.

Content Archived: March 16, 2010

FOIA Privacy Web Policies and Important Links [logo: Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity]
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 7th Street S.W.
Washington, DC 20410
Telephone: (202) 708-1112 TTY: (202) 708-1455