Bringing Affordable Housing To Native Americans
Programs like the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act, or NAHASDA, which offers affordable housing assistance directly to tribes, has provided a “vast improvement” to many of the 562 federally recognized Indian Nations in the United States, says Pamala Silas, executive director of the National American Indian Housing Council, a housing advocacy group.
“Tribes are sovereign nations, and the beauty of NAHASDA is that it allows tribes to create a housing plan and a solution to meet their own housing needs and use the money towards that plan,” says Silas.
Native Americans are eligible for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 184 Indian Home Loan Guarantee Program, which offers a low down payment of 2.25 percent on loans over $50,000 (and 1.25 percent for loans below $50,000), and these rates are based on market rates and not on an applicant’s credit score.
The program was used by Shelly Tucciarelli, as previously reported by The Home Story, a member of the Oneida Tribe of the Indians of Wisconsin, who was qualified and had the necessary documentation to prove it. She now owns a one-bedroom condo in Chicago, IL.
Section 184 loans are guaranteed 100 percent by HUD’s Office of Native American Programs, which it does to “encourage lenders to serve the Native communities,” according to its website.
By 2014, the Section 184 program guaranteed nearly $4 billion in funds to qualifying Native American tribes and individuals.
Affordable Housing in Scarce Supply
Many Indian reservations are in need of affordable housing, says Silas.
In 2003, roughly 90,000 Indian families were homeless or under-housed, while 30 percent of reservation households were crowded, according to a report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
“Housing has been a critical element of wealth growth, and we have to be deliberate about the development of housing in these communities, which has some of the most economically disadvantaged families in this country,” she adds.
Native American veterans are among those at the highest risk of becoming homeless, which is why HUD and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs just launched a new initiative that provides housing and support services to these veterans.
“The evidence is clear that by offering permanent housing solutions, combined with needed services and case management, we can end homelessness,” says HUD Secretary Julián Castro.
Even as November draws to a close, Silas says that there will be a continued need for housing assistance programs to “create miracles” in the Native American communities while also maintaining awareness of the Native American demographic.
“We welcome folks to learn more about the important contributions and many sacrifices that Native Americans have made to this country,” she adds.
“[Native American Heritage Month] is an opportunity to elevate the public’s awareness that there are still nations within this nation, and these are living, breathing communities and a part of this country’s vibrant culture.”