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New lobbyist for Indian Housing seeks more funding, autonomy

WASHINGTON ? The new executive director of the National American Indian Housing Council thinks tribes need more money from the federal government and greater autonomy to use it to provide quality housing for their members.

Gary L. Gordon, former director of housing for the Oneida Indian Nation of New York, said the $650 million a year tribes are getting in block grants from the government is just a fraction of the amount necessary to get the job done.

He estimated that $1.2 billion a year was needed just for current housing needs. Factoring in additional housing needs, infrastructure and development costs, it would take about $4 billion a year to do it right, he estimated.

He'd also like to see less bureaucracy from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which administers the block grant money through the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act (NAHASDA), and more autonomy for the sovereign nations that receive it. NAIHC represents 440 federally recognized tribes.

The new director also would like to see HUD's section 184 guaranteed Indian mortgage loan revised to allow refinancing for those who could benefit from lower interest rates than were obtainable when they closed their loans.

Mr. Gordon, a Mohawk, was the director of housing for the Oneida Nation (owner of Four Directions Media, Inc., which publishes Indian Country Today) for more than five years before his new assignment.

While there, he helped institute a mortgage program for tribal members, similar to HUD section 184 but guaranteed by the Nation.

Twenty-five families are currently somewhere in process in the program, he said, with the first mortgage closing to come as soon as this month.

Other partners in the program are Key Bank, the lender, Fannie Mae, the buyer of the mortgages, and Countrywide Home Loans, which will do the paperwork in servicing the loans.

Mr. Gordon's family is from a reservation outside Montreal, although he grew up in Syracuse, N.Y., where he earned a Ph.D. at Syracuse University. Before the Oneida position, he was a teacher at the State University of New York College of Oswego.