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Smaller housing authorities getting $1 million

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Smaller tribes will benefit from a $1 million grant to allow them to develop the expertise to tap the mortgage and capital markets.

The funds, to be provided by the National American Indian Housing Council, Amerind Risk Management Corp., and the Enterprise Foundation, will go to tribal housing entities that receive $200,000 or less a year from the federal government for housing assistance.

The money, authorized under the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act, is allocated by size, so many tribes receive small amounts, down to the minimum of $50,000 a year. These tribes can produce few housing units, the council said.

In announcing the effort at its annual conference here, the council said fully half the tribes in the country receive $200,000 or less under the self-determination act.

The money will be parceled out in about 30 grants of $30,000 each to allow these smaller tribal housing entities to try to leverage federal housing money by developing the expertise to tap the mortgage and capital markets.

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Tribal entities that receive grants also get technical assistance and training from the council and the Enterprise Foundation.

Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, mortgage revenue bonds, Federal Home Loan Bank Affordable Housing Program money, and HOME program funds are some funding sources available.

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development will participate in the program through technical assistance funding to the council, the national association of tribal housing entities.

Jacqueline Johnson, Tlingit, retiring head of the HUD Office of Native American Programs, said smaller tribes need to learn to leverage housing programs. As an example she cited a small tribe in Alaska which obtained a $1.8 million loan for 10 houses through HUD's Title VI effort.

Chester Carl, Navajo, chairman of the Navajo Housing Authority and also of the council, said there is an immediate need for 210,000 housing units in Indian country, but at most, current funding is producing only 25,000 units a year.

Enterprise Foundation is a national non-profit involved in housing in Indian country since 1997. It has arranged financing for 173 homes for tribes in New Mexico. Amerind, started in 1986 and owned by more than 200 Native housing entities, provides insurance for American Indian housing.