A bill to reauthorize the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA), H.R. 360, passed the House on March 24 by a vote of 297 to 98. Ninety-five Republicans opposed the bill, along with three Democrats, Representatives Maxine Waters (D-CA), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), and Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ).
The bill would authorize the main housing programs available in Indian country through FY19. They are the Indian Housing Block Grant and the Indian Community Development Block Grant, The bill also reauthorizes the Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant, and the Native Hawaiian Loan Guarantee. Representative Steve Pearce (R-NM) introduced the bill on January 14. The House passed a similar bill on December 2, 2014 (see Memo, 12/8/2014).
Ms. Waters voiced her opposition to the bill on the House floor saying she objects to the bill’s silence regarding the Cherokee nation’s threatened expulsion of Cherokee Freedmen, who are the descendants of former African American slaves of the Cherokee.
Ms. Waters also opposed the bill because of its treatment of the Brooke rule, a basic tenant of affordable housing named after former Senator Edward Brooke (R-MA), which ensures HUD-assisted tenants pay no more than about 30% of their adjusted incomes toward their housing costs. In deference to tribal sovereignty, the bill includes a provision to exempt tribes from compliance with the Brooke rule.
“The Brooke Rule … ensures that federally subsidized housing is affordable for the lowest income households. By stripping away this basic safeguard, this bill would make low income Native Americans vulnerable to unlimited increases in rent without any kind of hardship exemptions in place,” Ms. Waters said.
“This is simply unacceptable,” Ms. Waters continued. “It is a basic purpose of NAHASDA to provide housing for low income Native Americans, and this provision would seriously undermine that purpose. Republicans may not be concerned about the plight of the lowest-income Native Americans who rely on NAHASDA programs, but they are at the top of my concerns when it comes to this bill.”
Upon the bill’s passage, Mr. Pearce said, “For too long, safe affordable housing and financial independence have eluded Native American families on tribal lands. This bill would reverse that trend. From increased access to quality housing, to lease-to-own programs aimed at providing rural tribes with the means for self-growth, NAHASDA provides flexibility and independence to tribal members nationwide.”
On March 11, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Chair John Barrasso (R-WY) introduced similar NAHASDA reauthorization legislation in the Senate, S. 710. Opening a March 18 hearing on the bill, Chair Barrasso said, “The United States is responsible for improving Indian people’s housing conditions. Improved housing conditions empower tribes to take greater responsibility for their own economic condition.”
Mr. Pearce’s statement is at http://pearce.house.gov/press-release/pearce-bill-improve-native-american-housing-passes-house
Chair Barrasso’s statement is at http://www.indian.senate.gov/news/press-release/barrasso-opening-statement-scia-legislative-hearing-reauthorization-tribal