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HUD 184 programs expand off reservations

WASHINGTON - A significant expansion of the federal government's most
successful loan guarantee program could generate private mortgages for many
more American Indian families.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development section 184 American Indian
mortgage guarantee program can now be expanded, with HUD approval, from
reservations and Indian areas to much wider territories.

In its first such approval, HUD has allowed the Seminole Tribe of Florida
to make the entire state of Florida eligible for the HUD 184. This means
that its members living anywhere in Florida, not just on the Seminoles'
five reservations, can get mortgages from private lenders that will be 100
percent guaranteed by the federal government.

Seminole participation in the program previously has been are restricted to
their Hollywood, Big Cypress, Brighton, Immokalee and Tampa reservations,
which comprise 166 square miles in six Florida counties.

Making the loan available in non-trust areas, where there are fewer
restrictions in mortgaging the land, could help volumes in the program rise
considerably. The biggest implication of such an expansion is that it can
open up big cities where many urban Indians live selectively to the
program. For instance, the Navajo Nation could request plausibly that
Albuquerque and Phoenix be added for their members. Seattle, Denver, Los
Angeles, New York, San Diego and Chicago are other instances of big cities
that could be affected by nearby tribes requesting them to be added.

In addition, there are large Indian populations that live just adjacent to
many reservation borders. These areas could also become eligible, at
tribes' request, with HUD approval.

According to HUD, "if a tribe or tribal housing authority submits to HUD
documentation and clear and convincing evidence that the tribe has a
historical connection to the area or tribal members reside in these areas,
these entities could provide homeownership opportunities beyond the
reservations."

The HUD 184 has been the most successful federal Indian home loan program.
It is approaching its 2,000th mortgage and $200 million of financing on
reservations and Indian areas. Originally used mostly in Alaska and
Oklahoma, where the abolition of reservations has eased the federal trust
land barrier to mortgages, the program in recent years has been widely used
on trust lands.

But expansion of the program has become pressing as the administration has
acted to take back into the treasury money appropriated to support the
program and a sister effort, the Title VI loan program. A $54 million
"rescission" of unused guarantee funds is imminent. And since the guarantee
amounts leverage many times their amounts in lending, more than half a
billion dollars in potential money that could have been used to house the
most needy population in the country will be lost.

Michael Liu, who directs HUD's Office of Public and Indian Housing,
recently told an Indian conference that enough guarantee authority remains
to make the HUD 184 viable even after the rescission.

Liu told the National Congress of American Indians' annual convention that
more than $300 million of guarantee authority remains for the program even
after the rescission.

The HUD 184 can be used for loans on existing homes, new homes, rehabs, and
refinancings.

The HUD expansion mirrors that of some mortgage programs tribes have
developed without federal aid. In Oklahoma, for instance, the Chickasaw
Tribe has started the Chuka Chukmasi ("Beautiful Home") program in
partnership with First Mortgage Co. of Oklahoma City, mortgage agency
Fannie Mae of Washington, D.C. and mortgage insurer PMI Mortgage of San
Francisco.

Started in the Chickasaw service area in Oklahoma, the program has since
been expanded to any Chickasaw living in the United States.

As of this summer, 270 loans for $19 million in finance had closed under
Chuka Chukmasi.