Native American Housing:

Information on HUD's Housing Programs for Native Americans

RCED-97-64: Published: Mar 28, 1997. Publicly Released: Mar 28, 1997.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement and a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) housing programs for Native Americans, focusing on the: (1) funding history and measurable results of the housing programs administered by HUD for Native Americans in or near tribal areas; (2) significant factors that complicate and make costly the provision of housing assistance to Native Americans in or near tribal areas; (3) potential initial impact of the recently enacted Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996 on HUD's oversight of housing assistance to Native Americans living in or near tribal areas; and (4) the extent to which gaming occurs in tribal areas, its profitability, and whether HUD takes revenues from gaming into account when allocating funding to Native American housing authorities.

GAO noted that: (1) from fiscal year (FY) 1986 through FY 1995, HUD provided $4.3 billion for housing and community development in tribal areas; (2) of this amount, HUD provided $3.9 billion to approximately 189 Indian housing authorities to develop and maintain affordable housing and assist low-income renters; (3) in this period, the authorities used the funds to construct over 24,000 single-family homes, operate and maintain existing housing, and encourage other development; (4) over the decade, HUD also provided direct block grants totalling over $424 million to eligible tribes for community development and mortgage assistance; (5) many factors complicate and make costly the development and maintenance of affordable housing for Native Americans; (6) these factors include the remoteness and limited human resources of many Indian housing authorities and the Indian communities they serve, land-use restrictions and the inhospitality of the land, the difficulty that contractors and Indian housing authorities have in complying with statutory requirements to give hiring preference to Native Americans, and vandalism and neglect, which draw on scarce maintenance funds; (7) HUD believes that, initially, its workload could increase as it monitors tribes' compliance with the new Indian housing legislation set to take effect on October 1, 1997; (8) the new act changes the way HUD provides housing assistance to Native Americans by requiring block grants to each of the over 550 federally recognized tribes instead of categorical grants to the 189 Native American housing authorities that currently exist; (9) moreover, to qualify for the block grants, tribes must submit housing plans for HUD's approval; (10) although the law requires HUD to conduct only a limited review of the tribes' plans, HUD officials believe that this activity will, for the first year at least, be a labor-intensive function for HUD field offices; (11) of the 356 Indian tribes in the continental United States alone, 177 operated 240 gaming facilities as of July 1996; (12) according to 1994 and 1995 data submitted by 85 of these tribes, their gaming revenues after expenses totalled about $1.5 billion; (13) HUD officials told GAO that they do not take gaming revenues directly into account when allocating funds because, in addition to these revenues, HUD would need to know other business revenues and federal assistance available to each tribe in order to determine a fair allocation; and (14) to the extent that HUD takes a tribe's general economic well-being and housing needs into account, it is indirectly factoring gaming revenues into its funding allocation decisions.

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