Goal next year is $155 million
The Navajo Housing Authority is ending its fiscal year with record-breaking achievements and progress.
First, the Navajo Housing Authority surpassed its program goal by spending $142 million for the fiscal year that ended September 30, 2013, surpassing the $137 million drawdown target, as shared with HUD officials, by over $5 million. “Several years back we developed an expenditure plan in which we said we would reduce the amount each year,” said Aneva Yazzie, CEO of the Navajo Housing Authority. “HUD requested an expenditure plan and this is what we outlined. Our expenditure this year should prove that we (Navajo Housing Authority) can meet our target goals and bring the unexpended amount down as we have been saying all along.”
Not only did the Authority surpass its goal this past year, but the amount is the largest spent by the Authority in its’ entire 50 year history and the most ever spent in a single year by any Indian tribe explained Yazzie.
“The reason the amount is important is because it shows we can properly plan and spend within the NAHASDA and HUD regulations, at the same time,” Yazzie added. “If it was so easy to spend that much, as some people think, then it would have been done a long time ago. It’s difficult because we have to go through layers of bureaucracy and approvals, all the way from land withdrawals, environmental clearances, construction to inspections, and then comply with the meticulous procurement process. These situations are unique to Navajo.”
This past fiscal year, the Authority and sub grantees have nearly 500 housing units in various phases of development; which include demolition, rehabilitation, modernization, construction or have been occupied after completion of work. The expenditure also includes $14 million provided to 13 local housing providers.
Next year, the Navajo Housing Authority has an even higher expenditure goal: $155 million.
The Navajo Housing Authority has also received two awards in the past month. In Sept. 2013, the Authority was recognized by the Arizona Department of Housing as a recipient of the 2013 Brian Mickelsen Housing Hero Award in the Tribal Initiative Category. The Brian Mickelsen Housing Hero Awards recognizes outstanding service by individuals and organizations for their commitment to addressing the need for affordable housing throughout the state of Arizona. A week later, THE AUTHORITY was recognized by the American Planning Association Arizona Chapter and awarded the “Best Regional Plan”. Both awards recognized the Navajo Housing Authority’s effort for its Community Master Planning Initiative.
“It’s a big accomplishment to be recognized by established, professional and credible organizations for the work we have been doing for the Navajo people,” said Yazzie. “It just goes to show that we are making great gains, and people recognize it.”
Other notable awards and recognition given to the Navajo Housing Authority include;
2009: Flex Crete (Navajo Housing Authority wholly owned subsidiary) wins innovation award from State of Arizona for Energy and Green Initiatives.
2012 - April: An innovative approach taken by the Navajo Housing Authority to complete a first-ever mapping project of the Navajo Nation was recognized by the Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors (MAPPS) with the Navajo Housing Authority receiving the Geospatial Services Excellence Grand Award in partnership with its consulting firm, Aerometric.
2012 - May: Silver LEED certification energy efficiency award for an ARRA-funded project using the Navajo Housing Authority’s Flex Crete building system that received a 5 Star energy rated home in Becenti, New Mexico.
2012 - October: Minority Business Association award for outreach to small and minority businesses for its procurement that benefited several Navajo and other Indian-owned businesses.
Spending the money was no easy task especially when dealing with pressures from HUD over fallouts from the previous Navajo Housing Authority administration as well as dealing with local politics on the home front.
Beginning in the 2013 fiscal year the Navajo Housing Authority faced extreme opposition from two members of the Resources and Development Committee. On July 11, 2012, RDC Chairwomen, Katherine Benally and Vice-Chairman Leonard Tsosie during an RDC meeting for the 2013 Indian Housing Plan took $9.649 million away from other Navajo communities and moved money into their own chapters. That change in the FY 2013 IHP triggered events that lead to Navajo Housing Authority litigation against the RDC and the two delegates. The case is still pending today.
In response, RDC members began their campaign once more to take over the Navajo Housing Authority setting their eyes on the Tribally Designated Housing Entity (TDHE) designation. On June 28, 2013 the Navajo Nation Council entertained a legislation that would have taken the TDHE status from the Authority and designated it a newly created Navajo Nation Housing Commission. The Council voted down that legislation with a vote of 9 in favor and 11 opposed.
While the two RDC delegates have continued to question the progress and management of the Authority, they have turned around and asked the Authority to help with the master planning of the Twin Arrows community with emphasis on housing development. Despite the constant attacks on the Navajo Housing Authority, the Authority took the lead to meet Tsosie and Benally’s request for help because the housing needs would only benefit our working families.
“By repeatedly attacking the Navajo Housing Authority, Benally and Tsosie are wasting an untold amount of time and resources that could have been better spent in speeding up the construction development process and providing more homes to Navajo families,” said Yazzie. “Instead of repeatedly attacking the Navajo Housing Authority, why can’t Benally and Tsosie help the Authority and the Navajo people by: 1.) enacting legislation that makes more land available so that more housing development can be completed more quickly or 2.) making changes to Navajo law to speed up the resolution review process that currently exists.”
More recently on the federal front, HUD continues to question the Navajo Housing Authority’s unexpended fund balance. On Aug. 6, 2013 the Authority received a Notice of Intent from HUD. This letter stems from their initial letter of warning (LOW) to the Authority dated April 30, 2013 regarding HUD’s claim that the Authority failed to meet its planned goals and objectives in THE AUTHORITY’s Program Year 2012 Indian Housing Plan (IHP), based on THE AUTHORITY’s Annual Performance Report (APR). The Navajo Housing Authority responded and fully answered to HUD each concern on May 23, 2013, but HUD still responded with their notice of intent.
On Sept. 5, 2013 the Navajo Housing Authority received a draft report from the Northern Plains Office of the U.S. Housing & Urban Development Department that asks for repayment of $11 million for a failed 91-unit housing development project in Shiprock that was funded by the Authority using FY 2003 and FY 2004 NAHASDA funding that was allocated during Chester Carl’s term as Chief Executive Officer of the Navajo Housing Authority. The South Shiprock housing project was stopped in April 2005 after the contractor become embroiled in bankruptcy proceedings while also performing work for the former Fort Defiance Housing Corporation, also a sub-recipient of the Authority at the time.
“This is exactly what we have been saying all along,” said Yazzie, who took over as CEO of the Navajo Housing Authority in Feb. 2007. “There were a lot of things that happened prior to my coming on board that we had to clean up. This is one of them and we are still not done.”
On April 9, former the Navajo Housing Authority CEO Chester Carl and his alleged co-conspirator William Aubrey went to trial for embezzlement, conspiracy and bribery charges related to a federal grant program. Carl was acquitted of the charges brought up against him while Aubrey was charged in May on two counts of taking and converting money and funds from a tribal organization and sentenced to 51 months in federal prison.