Community Dividend

Changes in Indian Country

A summary of the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996.

Jacqueline Kruszek

Published April 1, 1997  | April 1997 issue

The Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996, a new law that will transform the way housing is provided in Indian Country, is scheduled to take effect October 1, 1997, and tribes are already planning for their not-too-distant futures. About 1,000 tribal leaders and Indian housing professionals gathered at the Second Annual Native American Homeownership Summit in Scottsdale, Ariz., in December 1996. The summit, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and other members of the National Partners in Homeownership initiative, focused on preparing tribes and their housing partners for implementing the act.

The act replaces older, more categorical programs with a single block grant to federally recognized tribes for housing activities. Under the new law, tribes—not the federal government—will decide how to allocate resources among homeownership, existing housing, demolition, drug elimination, safety and security and other housing activities.

Under the new law, tribes can develop a long-term housing strategy that will allow them to complete planned large-scale projects quickly and begin addressing housing needs immediately. Furthermore, tribes can now develop housing for college students and the elderly as well as facilities for troubled youths, all of which had not been permitted under the previous laws.

Tribes must develop one- and five-year comprehensive housing plans to qualify for the block grant. Each tribe's plan must include its housing objectives, its community's needs and resources and the activities proposed to achieve its goals.

Activities eligible for funding under the new act include developing and managing affordable rental and homeownership units, crime prevention and safety, and housing counseling and other support services. Also encouraged under this new act are developing public-private partnerships and leveraging limited federal resources. In addition, training and technical assistance funds will be available to the tribes.

HUD's Office of Native American Programs will annually review a tribe's comprehensive plans and required yearly reports. Once approved, the tribe will be included in an annual formula allocation. At HUD's request, the new law requires that the allocation formula be developed through a cooperative effort between HUD and tribal and Indian housing leaders.

A committee composed of HUD and tribal and Indian housing leaders will participate in a negotiated rule-making process and help set funding allocations to tribes. The committee's recommendations will be presented to HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo and made available for public comment this summer.

For more information, contact HUD's Office of Native American Programs at (303) 675-1600 or visit its Web page at

Jacqueline Kruszek is program analyst for Dominic Nessi, deputy assistant secretary, at HUD's National Office of Native American Programs.