More firsts in Indian housing

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Two more firsts have been recorded in the accelerating drive to bring private housing money onto tribal trust lands.

At the Santo Domingo Pueblo near Albuquerque, ground was broken for the state's first Low Income Housing Tax Credit financing, which will build 20 units on pueblo trust land.

And in Palm Springs, Calif., Canyon National Bank claimed it has achieved the first-ever title policy on land held in trust.

In New Mexico, 20 families on the waiting list of the Santo Domingo Tribal Housing Authority will get new single-family homes as the result of an innovative financing that includes only grants and equity - no debt at all.

Fannie Mae, the Washington, D.C., secondary mortgage agency, took the lion's share of financing, buying $1 million of Low Income Housing Tax Credits, providing more than 50 percent equity for the $1.8 million project.

The tax credit investment came about through a fund Fannie Mae created with Enterprise Social Investment Corp. to fund deals on Indian trust land.

Others partners included the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas, which contributed a grant of $250,000, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority allocated the tax credits. Under the program, an investor, such as Fannie Mae, contributes equity and gets a corresponding tax break. The firm also can buy credits at a discount, so it may only spend $750,000 to get $1 million in credits.

The two-, three- and four-bedroom units will go to very-low income residents earning 40 percent or below the area median income ($19,320).

Mark Vanderlinden of Fannie Mae's Albuquerque partnership office said the agency, which purchases mortgages after they are made, has bought about 20 or so made to individuals at five or six of New Mexico's pueblos. These include loans made under the HUD 184 and FHA 248 programs and the RNAP program of the Rural Housing Service.

Other deals are in the works and should be happening soon.

In California, Canyon National Bank said it arranged a title policy on a loan to a tribal leader through First American Title Co.

Titles on trust land traditionally have been handled by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, since the U.S. government actually holds title on the land ?in trust? for Indian tribes or individuals.

One source said private title insurance on Indian land would refer to the leasehold mortgage, and not the land itself. He said other such title policies are in the works or have happened.

Canyon National Bank is 45 percent owned by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. Its trust land is unusual, in that half of the affluent city of Palm Springs and a couple of other surrounding communities are on tribal trust land.

The bank release said it is dedicated to overcoming the many financing obstacles encountered by Indians, and counts among its accomplishments enabling a tribal member to construct a custom home on allotted land, funding the construction of a convenience store for another tribal member, and securing permanent financing and a BIA loan guarantee for a tribally-owned mini-mart.