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National Indian housing summit planned

WASHINGTON - The Department of Housing and Urban Development has set its
first national American Indian housing summit in four years.

The "2005 National Indian Housing Summit: Sharing Successes and Innovative
Approaches" is set for Sept. 19 - 22 at John Ascuaga's Nugget Hotel and
Casino in Reno, Nev.

It will be the first national Indian housing summit HUD has held since one
in St. Paul, Minn. in the summer of 2001, which ended in a thorny impasse
over the issue of tribal consultation that cooled HUD-tribal housing
relationships for some time.

That's not to say HUD and Indian housing authorities or TDHEs (tribally
designated housing entities) have been at loggerheads that whole time.

Last year, HUD held a series of six regional mini-summits around the
country in anticipation of a national summit this year.

Those meetings "attracted more than 800 participants, and this year we
expect to host nearly 1,000 attendees," according to the HUD Web site.

A trade show also will be held in conjunction with the summit. Questions
can be directed to Francis Harjo at HUD, (202) 401-7914 ext. 4074, or by
e-mail at francis_l._harjo@hud.gov.

Indian housing leaders back in 2001 considered tribal consultation a key
sovereignty issue, and objected to HUD making unilateral policy
impositions. They pointed to the tribal consultation conducted during the
implementation of the Native American Housing Assistance and Self
Determination Act as a model of HUD-Native interaction.

In the meantime, the issue has been somewhat cooled by the joint negotiated
rulemaking sessions held between the two parties over NAHASDA amendments.
While by no means was consensus on all points achieved, tribal housing
leaders looked on this process as respectful to sovereignty.

A whole series of tribal housing summits was held in the late 1990s in
places like Chicago, Albuquerque, N.M. and Portland, Ore. as tribes and HUD
huddled on how best to proceed in the wake of NAHASDA - a revolutionary law
that set aside old modes of interaction between the federal government and
tribes in favor of more self-determination for Indian nations.

When the parties meet again in September, some of the topics they can
expect to discuss are reduced levels of federal housing assistance, tribal
accounting for how monies are used, and the implementation of HUD's two
Indian mortgage guarantee programs, HUD 184 and Title VI.

Assistance under NAHASDA for fiscal year 2006 will be cut by 15 percent -
down $107 million - if the Bush administration's original budget proposal
is not changed by Congress over the summer. The administration instead is
focusing on boosting the HUD 184 and Title VI efforts, in line with its
policy goal of increasing homeownership across the country.

With an estimated immediate need for more than 200,000 additional homes in
Indian country, Indian housing leaders will probably not warm to the
philosophy that one should be cut to boost the other.

Tribes have been warned over the past several years that the federal Office
of Management and Budget (OMB) would be "scoring" federal assistance
programs and penalizing those that did not use assistance money quickly or
efficiently. Tribes have moved to augment accountability in the last
several years, but the $107 million proposed drop came as a startling piece
of news.

For the loan programs, the HUD 184 has been a government success story,
with more than $200 million in finance to more than 2,000 Indian mortgages.
The Title VI program, intended for bigger project loans, has lagged behind,
with one spectacular success, a $50 million loan to the Cherokee Nation in
Oklahoma to construct more than 400 new homes.

There will be several Indian housing meetings or training sessions this
summer before the national summit. HUD will hold a training session for the
application process for NAHASDA funding in Scottsdale, Ariz., Sept. 12 -
14.

A regional Indian housing group has also set a meeting for this summer. The
Northwest Indian Housing Association's annual meeting will be Sept. 14 - 15
in Yakima, Wash.

The national trade association for Indian housing leaders, the National
American Indian Housing Council, will hold a series of six free training
classes around the country in July and August, as well as two courses in
its Leadership Institute. Those are "Resident Services Programs," to be
held Aug. 16 - 18 in Minneapolis and "Admissions and Occupancy," Sept. 12 -
15 in Tulsa, Okla.