Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996


Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996

The Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996 was passed to simplify and reorganize the system of providing housing assistance to Native American communities to help improve the unsatisfactory conditions of infrastructure in Indian Country. The legislation proposed to accomplish this reform by reducing the regulatory strictures that burdened tribes attempting to use their housing grants, and created a new program division of the Department of Housing and Urban Development that combined several previously used programs into one block operation committed to the task of tribal housing. The legislation has been reauthorized and amended several times in its 12 year history.

History

For more Information, please see Native American Self-Determination.

On April 29, 1994, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a new policy statement, emphasizing their intent to strengthen the unique government-to-government relationship between the U.S. and federally recognized Native American tribes and Alaska Native villages by encompassing Indian affairs as part of their sphere of responsibility. Traditionally, issues concerning Native Americans are addressed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the U.S. Department of the Interior,[citation needed] but the American Indian and Alaska Native 1994 Policy Statement sought to expand HUD's mission to include a special responsibility to Indian tribes.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s policy to promote the general welfare by meeting the national goal of providing decent, safe, sanitary and affordable housing for lower income families is complemented by this special Indian policy.[1]

The memorandum was the basis for NAHASDA, as the new power of Housing and Urban Development in Indian affairs necessetated the creation of Grant and Support Programs specifically for the use of American Indian and Alaska Native groups who previously used the broad-based and varied programs created by the United States Housing Act. NAHASDA consolidated the programs previously available to tribal groups into the Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG), and also authorized Title IV loan programs for use by American Indian tribes.[citation needed]

In 2000, the legislation was expanded to allow Title VIII loans for housing and infrastructure purposes by Native Hawaiians[2]. The authorization prompted some non-indigenous Hawaiians to file suit against the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) in the case Arakaki v. Lingle. The plaintiffs claimed that the authorization of HUD grant money for sole use of indigenous people was in violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. On April 16, 2007, the District Court ruled in favor of the OHA, claiming that the authorization of grants to the OHA did not constitute any harm to the plaintiffs[3], setting a president for the constitutionality of supplying funds to Native groups for them to use as they see fit.

Criticisms

As is often the case with programs involving the government-to-government relationship between the U.S. and American Indian tribes, there has been much debate over the application of NAHASDA and the IHBG. Those within Indian Country claim the U.S. government is simply too restrictive, and many on the outside see HUD as being too permissive of the ways in which tribes utilize IHBG money.

Early in its existence, there was many a complaint from tribes claiming that Housing and Urban Development was not allotting proper funds for the creation of infrastructure such as roads and bridges, forcing tribes to build homes in a row-housing style in large groups. The issue has largely been addressed, and it is now much easier to apply grant money to the creation of infrastructure to connect remote homes to other areas in a given reservation.[4]

The Indian Housing Block Grant has garnered criticism from those outside Indian country who claim that some funds being distributed through the IHBG are being used for purposes not intended for by NAHASDA. Within the first four years of the program, over $4.2 million dollars in IHBG money were used by Indian tribes for the creation of smoke shops, selling tax-free tobacco at rather high profit margins. The use of resources alarmed not only those who saw it as a use of tax-payer dollars for creation of private businesses, but also by anti-tobacco groups who believed the use of HUD funds for smoke shops displayed governmental promotion of tobacco.[5]

References

  1. ^ HUD American Indian and Alaska Native 1994 Policy Statement.[1]
  2. ^ http://hawaii.gov/dhhl/nahasda
  3. ^ http://www.oha.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=392
  4. ^ Rumbelow, H., & Writer, W. P. S. (2002, October 13). Dreaming of homes on the reservation; act improves housing , but disputes remain. The Washington Post, pp. A03.
  5. ^ The New York Times. (2000, March 6). Senator seeks to end grants for indian tobacco stores. The New York Times,

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