Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall announced that he has joined Senate Indian Affairs Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Vice Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) in introducing a bill to reauthorize the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA), which is scheduled to expire on September 30, 2013. The bill was also cosponsored by Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD), Jon Tester (D-MT), Mark Begich (D-AK), Al Franken (D-MN), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND).
In 1996, Congress first passed NAHASDA to help ensure that Tribes and their members are provided safe and affordable housing, and that housing programs meet the needs of Tribal members well into the future. NAHASDA helps address a critical need for housing assistance in Indian Country, where more than 28 percent of reservation households lack adequate plumbing and kitchen facilities, while nationally only 5.4 percent of households lack such infrastructure.
“Safe, well-built housing and infrastructure are the building blocks for strong, healthy communities, and this bill helps ensure Native American communities in New Mexico and throughout Indian Country have the resources to help fill this vital need,” said Udall, who is a member of the Indian Affairs Committee. “NAHASDA has a long history of bipartisan support. Its reauthorization will help drive smarter investments into Indian Country by eliminating red tape and promoting energy-efficient housing. I am proud to join my colleagues on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee to introduce this bill, and I look forward to working with them to get it passed by the full Senate before the current authorization expires.”
“Housing conditions in Native American communities remain some of the most challenging in the nation. This Act is designed to assist those communities, where substandard housing is rampant and poverty is a serious issue,” Cantwell said. “The reauthorization of this Act is critically important to help ensure that Tribes continue to have access to the tools necessary to provide for the basic housing needs of their members. While more must be done, I am pleased to note that this is one of the most successfully implemented programs in Indian Country to date.”
“Our bill responds to a fundamental need on our nation’s Indian reservations: safe, adequate housing for low income Indian people. Without adequate housing, families can’t thrive and parents can’t provide a healthy environment for their children so they can do well in school and life. This problem takes a toll on entire reservation communities and we have to address it,” Barrasso said. “I look forward to working with the Chairwoman and other members of the Committee to move this bill forward in the Senate as soon as possible.”
This bill improves the current law by:
- Increasing usage of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits by developers and investors that target projects serving Indian communities.
- Elimination of duplicative requirements when multiple agencies are involved in a housing-related project by identifying the majority federal partner and using that agency’s standards.
- Allowing Tribes access to the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program (HUD-VASH).
- Promoting clean energy and sustainable projects by raising the total development cost ceilings cited as barriers to building energy-efficient housing.
An estimated 200,000 housing units are needed immediately in Indian Country and approximately 90,000 Native families are homeless or under-housed. A 2009 Annual Homeless Assessment Report found that Native Americans make up 8 percent of the country’s homeless population, while they comprise less than 1 percent of the general population. Nearly 46 percent of Native households are overcrowded, a rate almost three times that of the rest of the country, according to a 2010 report from the General Accounting Office.
In 2002, NAHASDA was reauthorized for five years, and was again reauthorized in 2008 for a five-year period which expires in September 2013. NAHASDA replaced funding under the 1937 Housing Act with Indian Housing Block Grants and provided Tribes with the choice of administering the block grant themselves or through their existing Indian Housing Authorities or their Tribally designated housing entities.