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Level funding for Indian housing

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration’s 2010 budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development keeps funding for the American Indian housing block grant level with 2009 at $645 million, but cuts money to support a popular Indian mortgage program by $2 million.

That program, the HUD 184, will have its guaranty money cut from $9 million this year to $7 million next year, if the budget remains unchanged. Quite often, the House and Senate change funding levels dramatically from the original proposal.

The amount refers not to the funding of mortgages under the program, which could exceed $7 million many times over, but to the amount to be appropriated for the guarantee. The HUD 184 guarantees lender outlays by 100 percent, so the $7 million would cover losses on loans up to that amount.

According to HUD, more than 6,000 184s had been granted as of December 2008. By far the state with the most loans is Oklahoma, with 2,414. It is followed by Alaska, with 858, and Arizona, with 662. California has seen 538 HUD 184s.

The Native Hawaiian version of the program, called the HUD 184A, would maintain level funding from last year at $1 million. Their housing block grant would also stay level at $10 million if Congress votes to accept it.

Historically, the Indian housing block grants were boosted to $650 million per year after the passage of the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act during the Clinton administration, but were steadily pared back during the Bush administration.

The administration has proposed that another HUD program utilized by tribes, Rural Housing and Economic Development, be merged into the Community Development Block Grant program. In 2009, it was funded for $26 million, but this year’s budget proposes to start a similar effort and fund it for $25 million. CDBG has gotten a big boost, from $3.9 billion to a proposed $4.45 billion. The Indian amount of that program, the ICDBG, was not quantified in HUD’s budget release.

Other programs have been marked for consolidation, including the Tribal Colleges and Universities Program, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Servicing Institutions

Assisting Communities program, and Native American and Native Hawaiian Technical Assistance. It is unclear from the budget what funding levels are proposed for these programs.

Indian colleges can get grants of up to $600,000 to support college housing under TCUP. Indian Housing Authority residents also benefit from the HUD Resident Opportunity and Self Sufficiency program, which provides money for them to receive job training and transition from welfare to work.

Paul Lumley, executive director of the National American Indian Housing Council, said that while the funding proposal was level, he was “delighted” at funding trends over the past couple of years. The 2009 level was a boost from 2008, and Indian housing is benefiting from an additional $510 million set aside under the stimulus program.

Between the three, funding is “so much more than we ever expected.”

Lumley, whose group represents hundreds of Indian Housing Authorities and tribally designated housing entities, said he was “a little surprised” at the HUD 184 cut and that he’s “not sure why it’s being reduced.”

NAIHC got $3.5 million in technical assistance money last year, and he’s not sure what next year’s level may be since it’s being consolidated into HUD’s “Transformation” project.

Also unclear is the Title VI program under NAHASDA, which is not mentioned in the budget summary. It is used to guarantee outlays on big projects like infrastructure.

The administration proposes increasing HUD’s budget to $43.7 billion from $40.5 billion in fiscal 2009. The Office of Public and Indian Housing would see a $1.8 billion boost, to $25.6 billion.

HUD said it wants to preserve “the long-term viability and affordability of millions of units financed under public, assisted and Native American housing programs.”

The budget summary said “Over 90 percent of the households served in these programs are very low income, providing a critical resource as affordable housing is lost due to gentrification, conversion, dilapidation and other market forces. The preservation of existing housing is also fiscally effective, given that the cost of building even modest quality new housing has grown substantially over time.”