The House Financial Services Committee approved a bill on July 30 to reauthorize the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA) through the end of FY18. NAHASDA authorizes the main housing programs, including the block grant, available in Indian country. H.R. 4329 would make several reforms, but would not increase NAHASDA’s authorized appropriation level of $650 million per year. Representative Steve Pearce (R-NM) introduced the bill on March 27. No hearing was held on the bill before the Committee mark-up the week of July 28.
Among the changes the bill authorizes, NAHASDA grantees would be allowed to waive the Brooke rule, which requires that residents of HUD’s public and assisted housing programs pay no more than 30% of their household income toward rent and utilities. The bill would also authorize a demonstration program to privatize Native American housing, freeing NAHASDA block grantees participating in the demonstration from many current program rules.
In his opening statement, Mr. Pearce said his goal for NAHASDA reauthorization is to “achieve prosperity that has been elusive on reservations.” Mr. Pearce said his bill would reduce regulatory burdens and expand housing by allowing tribes to use more of their funds for housing because less would be spent on administration. Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI) said that while there “may not be 100% agreement with the final product, the process has been bi-partisan” to develop the bill.
Committee Ranking Member Maxine Waters (D-CA) regretfully opposed the bill. “This is one of those bills you regret having to indicate your opposition to.” She took issue with the fact that there was no hearing on the bill, resulting in inadequate consideration of important issues. “I am sorry that I have to oppose the bill because I do support the reauthorization of NAHASDA,” Ms. Waters said.
Representative Waters said H.R. 4329, would “seriously undercut the central goal of providing affordable housing for low income Native Americans. Specifically, this bill would waive the 30% maximum rent requirement for Native American tenants. Without this critical tenant protection, low income Native American households will be vulnerable to unlimited increases in rental payments.” While Ms. Waters said she appreciated the lack of sufficient funding for affordable housing, “extracting more money from low income households by burdening them with unaffordable rent payments is not a solution I can accept in any context.”
In addition, Representative Waters was concerned that waiving the Brooke rule in NAHASDA would “open up the possibility that the 30% rule will be attempted to be waived” in other programs such as Public Housing and Housing Choice Vouchers.
Ms. Waters offered an amendment to eliminate the exemption from the 30% rent cap. Mr. Pearce opposed the amendment. Responding to the concern that there was no hearing before the Committee’s vote, Mr. Pearce said that the Committee had run out of time. He defended the bill’s waiver of the Brooke rule saying that it was an issue of tribal sovereignty, that tribes should be able to determine their own rules. Committee Chair Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) also opposed Ms. Waters’ amendment, asserting it was offered solely for political messaging. He rhetorically asking his Committee colleagues if the words “self-determination” needed to be struck from NAHASDA’s title. “The right to sovereignty does not shake my goal to protect low income tenants,” Ms. Waters replied. The amendment to remove the bill’s waiver of the Brooke rule failed by voice vote.
Ms. Moore proposed and subsequently withdrew an amendment to include reauthorization of the Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant and the Native Hawaiian Loan Guarantee programs. These programs were included in NAHASDA reauthorizations between 2000 and 2005, but have not been included since. Ms. Moore expressed her disappointment that the bill did not include these block grants and loan guarantees for an indigenous population that is in dire need of affordable housing. Ms. Moore said she is hopeful this issue will be worked out as the bill moves forward.
Representative Dan Kildee (D-MI) offered an amendment to strike the privatization demonstration from the bill. The amendment failed by a vote of 25 to 32. Mr. Kildee asserted that if NAHASDA programs were fully funded, there would be no call for a privatization demonstration. He said the demonstration would allow waivers of many important protections, such as lease requirements and tenant selection procedures, and it would allow grantees to enter into agreements with for-profit entities that would be guaranteed a certain rate of profit. Mr. Pearce countered, saying that it is an experiment called for by Native American groups, and that he was eager to see how it progressed once implemented.
The bill passed out of Committee by a vote of 47 to 11.
On the Senate side, NAHASDA reauthorization passed out of both the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee and the Indian Affairs Committee (see Memo, 1/3). That bill, S. 1352 sponsored by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), does not contain provisions that would allow the waiver of the Brooke rule or a privatization demonstration. Senator Cantwell’s bill would also reauthorize the Native Hawaiian programs.
The archived webcast of the July 29 and 30 markup of H.R. 4329 is at http://1.usa.gov/1tNktsp.