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NAHASDA Passes House; All Eyes on Senate Now

The reauthorization of NAHASDA passed the House with a vote of 297 to 98 and now awaits a Senate vote on a similar bill – Navajo Nation disappointed.
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“NAHASDA is a pillar in the federal government’s trust relationship with our Native peoples and continues to support overwhelmingly successful housing initiatives,” Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska) said as the House voted to pass H.R. 360 much to the disappointment of one of the largest tribal nations on Turtle Island.

The Navajo Nation recently voiced its concern with a portion of the House version of the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act – despite supporting the majority of the bill. The area in question, section 302, seeks to rein in funds carried over year to year when they’re not spent. As it is in H.R. 360 those funds would have a deadline of 2015, which would result in the Navajo Housing Authority losing $81 million in housing funds this year alone as ICTMN reported earlier this month.

RELATED: Navajo Nation In Jeopardy of Losing Unspent Housing Money

The reauthorization of NAHASDA passed the House with a vote of 297 to 98 and now awaits a Senate vote on a similar bill.

“While we could not completely support the bill, NHA was aware that H.R. 360 had the votes to pass the House of Representatives today under the suspension of the rules,” Navajo Housing Authority Chief Executive Officer Aneva Yazzie said following the vote March 23. “Specific language presented in H.R. 360 is unfavorable to the Navajo Nation and NHA, however it is important to note that the bill still needs consideration and approval in the U.S. Senate, which will continue the debate regarding provisions of the bill.”

Last week, the Senate issued S.B. 710, its version of the NAHASDA reauthorization, which features a date of 2018 for taking back unspent NAHASDA funds, compared to the 2015 date in the House version. The Senate version provides a timeline that would allow the Navajo Nation to disperse funds that have already been allocated for ongoing projects as reported by ICTMN.

RELATED: Senate Bill Would Save Navajo Nation Housing Monies

On Wednesday the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held a hearing on the reauthorization of NAHASDA where Karen Diver, chairwoman of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians informed the Committee that “[m]ore cooperation between the federal agencies,” was needed. The Navajo Nation are hoping for that cooperation to work in their favor.

RELATED: Housing Conditions In Indian Country: ‘Couch-Surfing and Overcrowded’; More Is Needed

“We are hopeful that the differences can be worked out in our favor on the Senate side,” Yazzie said.

Since NAHASDA’s approval in 1996 the red tape that plagued Indian housing projects has drastically been cut back allowing for American Indian and Alaska Native communities to improve housing conditions through funds from the Indian Housing Block Grant.

RELATED: Tribes Seeks Sovereignty Grand Slam With Reauthorization of Housing Act

“Before enactment of NAHASDA in 1996, many federal housing programs completely ignored the many unique challenges and obstacles facing the Alaska Native and American Indian people,” Young said. “NAHASDA has fundamentally transformed the way our government addresses housing needs for our many villages and tribes. Congress must do its part to continue these successful programs.”

Following the passage of H.R. 360 Young urged tribes and Native communities throughout the United States to encourage swift passage of NAHASDA reauthorization in the Senate.

“I call upon you to speak to your Senators and advocate for passage of NAHASDA legislation,” Young said. “The ball is in the Senate’s court once again, and hearing from you about the tremendous housing needs in Indian country and the innovative housing assistance offered under NAHASDA will help us in our efforts to pass this vital legislation.”

“Today we are a step closer to addressing the lack of housing in Indian country, and it’s critical the Senate now reauthorize these initiatives as quickly as possible,” Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), vice chairman of the SCIA said following the House passage. “There is nothing that impacts Native American communities more than the absence of housing. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate on this reauthorization which helps address the acute housing needs in Indian country.”

If S.B. 710 passes the Senate it will have to be reconciled with H.R. 360.

Click here for a section-by-section description of H.R. 360.