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Tribal Housing Needs Far Outstrip Federal Allocations

The $50 million extra the Administration wants to go towards tribal housing in FY 2017 looks to be a drop in the bucket against increasing needs.

The extra $50 million the Obama Administration wants to go towards tribal housing in fiscal 2017 looks to be just a drop in the bucket against rapidly increasing needs.

RELATED: Across the Board Increases for Obama’s Indian Country Budget

The Department of Housing and Urban Development, in a memo to Congress explaining the Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG) budget allocation boost from $650 million to $700 million, painted a bleak picture of “overwhelming need for adequate, decent Indian housing.”

HUD said “the lack of housing and infrastructure in Indian country is severe and widespread, and far exceeds the funding currently provided to tribes.”

In the past 12 years, the agency said, “the number of low-income families in the IHBG formula areas grew by 41 percent, from 224,461 families, to 317,042 families; the number of overcrowded households, or households without adequate kitchens or plumbing, grew by 21 percent, from 91,032 households to 109,811 households; and the number of families with severe housing costs grew by 55 percent, from 42,401 families, to 65,667 families.”

The $700 million would provide $698 million in block grant funds to approximately 369 tribally designated housing entities, from among 567 tribes in 34 states. The other $2 million would go toward supporting housing and infrastructure loans under Title VI of the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act (the IHBG program was also authorized by NAHASDA).

HUD estimates that “this level of funding would allow IHBG recipients to build, acquire, or substantially rehabilitate 5,065 affordable units in fiscal year 2017. Recipients will also operate and maintain approximately 40,000 older affordable units, which were funded by programs authorized under the United States Housing Act of 1937.”

The agency noted that the older units are taking up more and more funding to operate and maintain, thus leaving less money to develop new homes.

It said in fiscal years 2011 through 2015, IHBG recipients expended approximately $941 million on activities in developing new homes. During this 5-year period, 6,546 affordable homes were built, 2,284 were acquired, and 23,224 were substantially rehabilitated.

But in the same years, IHBG recipients expended approximately $1.16 billion on activities in operating and maintaining about 46,000 of these older units, the agency said.

The $2 million in requested credit subsidy for the Title VI loan guarantee program can support up to $17.9 million in loans, HUD said. About $220 million of Title VI loans have been guaranteed since program inception, through 86 financings. They are often used for infrastructure for housing developments and have been used to build about 3,100 units of housing. HUD expects to make five Title VI loans in fiscal 2017.

The IHBG block grants have financed the building or acquisition of 37,700 units of housing and 77,000 rehabs since program inception in 1998.

The current level of $650 million is the same as the initial IHBG nearly 20 years ago, and advocacy groups such as the National American Indian Housing Council have long said the amounts allocated have not kept pace with increasing costs, much less allow to cut into the increasing need. Tribes received a larger amount of money in the American Recovery Act stimulus program that followed the last recession but then saw the money reduced in the following year’s budget request.

HUD also administers another tribal loan program, the HUD 184, and the Indian version of the Community Development Block Grant program, the I-CDBG.