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Fannie Mae donates $1 million for Indian housing

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WASHINGTON - Fannie Mae has jumpstarted an ambitious plan to house 100,000 American Indian families with a $1 million donation to the National American Indian Housing Council.

The agency's Vice Chairman, Daniel Mudd, presented the money to NAIHC at its annual legislative conference here. NAIHC's Executive Director, Gary Gordon, Mohawk, said it would help fund 19 separate initiatives, including leveraging government and private mortgage funds, assisting homebuyer education, starting a national home owner information center and protecting Indians from predatory mortgage lending.

Gordon said, "NAIHC, along with tribes, plans to utilize technology when conducting training. Although infrastructure in some tribal areas does not allow some Native communities to use the Internet or receive training via satellite, in time, more and more tribes will be able to employ these valuable new technologies. In addition, NAIHC plans to create a targeted Web site with solid information for Native homebuyers."

NAIHC chair Russell Sossamon commented, "It's 2004, yet there are still homes with inadequate infrastructure, no indoor plumbing, no telephone lines and no electricity. Many homes in Indian country were built decades ago, and they are constantly deteriorating because they were made of low-quality materials. Mobile homes - a depreciating asset - are overused on reservations. We also have tribes that are - due to the lack of capacity and resources - unable to provide adequate housing for their elders, tribes with overcrowding, extensive waiting lists; the list goes on."

Lending partners for the program include GreenPoint Mortgage, Washington Mutual Bank, PMI Mortgage Insurance Co. and First Mortgage Co. of Oklahoma City. GreenPoint has donated $250,000 to the campaign.

The "Housing First for First Americans" campaign seeks to boost training, communications, research and technical assistance capability for housing staff at NAIHC members, which include Indian Housing Authorities (IHAs) and tribally designated housing entities (TDHEs).

It also plans to explore the use of the YouthBuild and Self-Help programs, and individual development accounts (IDAs) for potential Indian homeowners.

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NAIHC also announced a partnership with the National Congress of American Indians and the National Community Reinvestment Corp. on homebuyer education and training. Called "Pathways to Homeownership," it will involve the completion of an Indian-relevant training curriculum, a nationwide train-the-trainer program, and on-reservation training.

NAIHC's goal of 100,000 homes over 10 years would take care of just half the estimated immediate need for 200,000 units for the country's 562 federally recognized tribes (more than 200 of them in Alaska). It would represent at least a doubling of the current pace of housing production on reservations.

Some of the challenges NAIHC lists include: delays of land title status reports from the Bureau of Indian Affairs; need for homebuyer education; lenders not offering mortgages to Native Americans; insufficient federal funding; and natural disasters such as last year's California wildfires, which devastated some tribal areas.

Mudd told the NAIHC meeting that last year, Fannie Mae invested $290 million in Indian country housing, helping 2,600 families on reservations or trust land at 147 tribes. He said his agency would assist with 10 of the tribal initiatives, make available online homebuyer counseling, and offer training to individual tribes.

Fannie Mae has pledged $1.25 billion over the next 10 years to assist Indian housing.

In addition, Fannie Mae and PMI have just announced a $175,000 program at the Pueblo of Acoma in New Mexico for a revolving fund to construct or rehabilitate housing stock on tribal homelands.

PMI will contribute $150,000 and Fannie Mae $25,000.