House Appropriations Subcommittee Holds Hearing Addressing Tribal Perspectives on Housing and Transportation

The U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development held a hearing, “Tribal Perspectives on Housing and Transportation,” on April 28.

Witnesses included Gary Bohnee (Gila River), special assistant at the Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs for the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community in Arizona; Barbara Little Owl (Standing Rock Sioux), executive director of the Standing Rock Housing Authority; Tonya Plummer (Assiniboine, Sioux, and Cree), director of Native American housing programs, Enterprise Community Partners; Leo Sisco (Santa Rosa Rancheria Tachi), chairman, Santa Rosa Indian Community of the Santa Rosa Rancheria Tachi-Yokut Tribe; Russell Sossamon (Choctaw), executive director, Comanche Nation Housing Authority; and Alex Wesaw (Potawatomi), treasurer, Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians. The Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) focused the hearing on Congress’s oversight of HUD, particularly the Office of Native American Programs (ONAP), as well as other federal agencies that provide federal funding to Native American Tribes.

Witnesses discussed the benefits of federal funding to Tribes, including the Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG), IHBG Competitive Grant, Native CDFI lending programs, and the Veterans Affairs Native American Direct Loan Program (VA NADL), among others. Barbara Little Owl represented the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, a member of the United Native American Housing Association (UNAHA), NLIHC’s first Tribal partner. Little Owl testified to the benefits of the Indian Housing Block Grants made available through the “Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996” (NAHASDA) but drew attention to the program’s outdated funding structure. Under the current formula funding, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is only able to serve approximately 12% of its population. “Funding to repair or replace current collapsing service lines to occupied units is critically needed,” said Little Owl. “In some locations on the Reservation, we currently have water and sewer lines in place and ready for new home development but have not been able to complete any new construction since the 1990s due to lack of funding for home development.” Little Owl also noted the Tribe’s efficient usage of Emergency Rental Assistance Program funding, which NLIHC evaluated in a report.

The witnesses recommended that the committee reauthorize NAHASDA; make NAHASDA funding mandatory, not discretionary; require federal agencies serving Native Americans to coordinate and align service requirements; and follow through on treaty obligations and trust responsibilities. Chairman Cole noted that “we’ve historically underfunded these functions” and that the problems would not be fixed through one year’s appropriations alone.

Watch the hearing and read witnesses’ testimony at: