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NAHASDA housing bill a success, says study

WASHINGTON - The "self determination" part of the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act (NAHASDA) has allowed tribes to be "more creative and resourceful" in creating homes for their members, according to a new study by the National American Indian Housing Council.

However, NAIHC, which studied six successful project implementations that used NAHASDA funding, said funding remains inadequate and needs to be increased from current levels of $650 million a year to $1 billion. Even with more funding, tribes need to learn to leverage that money more effectively, the report concluded.

President George W. Bush recently signed a reauthorization for NAHASDA, which technically expired in 2001, although it continued to be operated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development pending the reauthorization.

Funding for NAHASDA has increased from $435 million for fiscal 1998 to a projected $646.6 million for FY 2003.

NAIHC studied projects that used each of the six eligible activities under NAHASDA. They included Indian Housing Assistance (Metlakatla Indian Community); Development (Catawba Tribe); Housing Services (White Mountain Apache); Housing Management Services (Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes); Model Activities (Bay Mills Indian Community) and Crime Prevention and Safety Activities (Menominee Tribe).

Report author Valerie Seneca and researcher LeeAnna Arrowchis found that the Bay Mills community on the shores of Lake Superior used the "model activity" authority to construct a new elder center. The tribe used NAHASDA money ($136,682) and leveraged it with funds from the tribe ($184,621) and an Indian Community Development Block Grant ($400,000).

The community turned to its elders for input on what the center should include, and their consensus was to include a history department for interviewing and taping elders, create activities "that promote the traditional values and history of elders," and "acknowledge the contributions and sacrifices as well as the needs of elders."

According to NAIHC, "through NAHASDA, the Bay Mills Indian Community had the decision and control regarding what type of model activity would be most beneficial for their people, based on their own values and skills."

At Catawba, in South Carolina, the tribe used the development authority of the law to build 120 units of housing. This included 65 single-family ownership units, 25 ownership cottage units for elders and singles and 30 multifamily units.

The Green Earth project used funding from no less than seven sources, including the tribe's NAHASDA funding from 1998 through 2003. Some half of the total cost of $10.8 million was gotten through the HUD Title VI program, where a bank (in this case First Union) can lend up to five times the NAHASDA amount for "additional housing need," 95 percent guaranteed by the government.

This leveraging, according to NAIHC, tripled the tribe's housing development capacity, from 12 units a year to these 120 over three years.

In the "Housing Services" category, NAIHC chose Apache Dawn, a 250-unit development by the White Mountain Apache tribe in Arizona. The tribe used a very complicated financing structure, including the first-ever mortgage revenue bond used in Indian country. Housing services provided included homeownership counseling for the rent-to-own units.

According to NAIHC, "Apache Dawn demonstrated that when a tribe is given more control over its own housing program, the tribe can reach a success rate higher than that realized in the past few decades."

The group studied the Metlakatla Indian Community of Alaska for the category of "Indian Housing Assistance." The community developed a program to assist its students with college-related housing costs.

Using $45,000 of NAHASDA funds, the island-based tribe set up a $250 monthly stipend so that its students could afford to stay in college on the mainland.

The Salish & Kootenai tribes of Montana used NAHASDA to help restructure their housing management, under the "Housing Management" authority. The tribes acted based on a survey of tribal members, which indicated to them that new management authority was needed to advance the goal of more homeownership.

To date, the new structure has resulted in Low Income Housing Tax Credit projects and a new tribal venture called Flathead Finance. The Salish & Kootenai Housing Authority, directed by Bob Gauthier, uses four other sources of money besides NAHASDA.

Finally, under the Crime Prevention category, NAIHC studied the Menominee tribe of Wisconsin, which used NAHASDA funds and money from two other grants to fight endemic drug use on its reservation, using culturally integrated programming. A total of $397,000 has been spent to date.