December 18, 2013

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Approves Reauthorization of Key Tribal Housing Bill

WASHINGTON D.C. – Today the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs unanimously voted in favor of reauthorizing the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA) (S.1352).   The Committee also advanced the nomination of the Special Trustee for American Indians.
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.
This bill improves the current law by:
•           Eliminating duplicative requirements when multiple agencies are involved in a housing-related project by utilizing a single agency standard. 
•           Allowing Tribes access to the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program (HUD-VASH).
•           Promoting 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% of the country’s homeless population, while they comprise less than 1% of the general population.  Nearly 46% 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. 
“Currently American Indians make up 8 percent of the nation’s homeless population, despite being only 1 percent of the general population.  Nearly 25 percent live in housing units that have severe structural need,” Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-WA) said. “This bill is critical to ensuring that all tribes and their members are provided safe and affordable housing, and that housing programs meet the needs of tribal members well into the future.”
“I’m looking forward to working with Chairman Cantwell on reauthorizing the NAHASDA, a bill that will assist tribes and their members throughout Indian Country.  This legislation will help address Indian housing development issues, reduce bureaucracy and improve project administration,” said Committee Vice Chairman, John Barrasso (R-WY). 
In 2002, NAHASDA was reauthorized for five years, and was again reauthorized in 2008 for a five-year period which expired in September 2013. NAHASDA consolidated funding under the 1937 Housing Act and created the Indian Housing Block Grants, giving tribes greater flexibility in administering their housing funds.
The Committee also voted to advance the Nomination of Vincent G. Logan to serve as Special Trustee, Office of Special Trustee for American Indians.  Mr. Logan is a member of the Osage Nation of Oklahoma.  On February 27, 2013, President Obama nominated him to serve as Special Trustee for American Indians. 
The Office of the Special Trustee is located within the Department of the Interior.  The staff includes 650 employees who manage more than 2,900 trust accounts for over 250 tribes.  Additionally, there are 380,000 Individual Indian Money trust accounts managed by the Office of the Special Trustee for individual Native Americans. 
“Mr. Logan has shown a great passion for working with tribes and individual Indians to manage their trust assets and the Committee appreciates his willingness to take on this difficult position,” Cantwell said.
“Mr. Logan brings a strong financial background to this position,” Barrasso said.  “His experience and understanding in this field will serve him well as the Special Trustee for American Indians.”