Native American Housing:

Challenges Facing HUD's Indian Housing Program

T-RCED-97-105: Published: Mar 12, 1997. Publicly Released: Mar 12, 1997.

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Judy A. England Joseph
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GAO discussed the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Native American housing programs, focusing on the: (1) funding history and results of HUD's housing programs for Native Americans; (2) factors that complicate and make costly the development and maintenance of affordable housing for Native Americans; and (3) HUD's ability to detect mismanagement in Native American housing and the potential impact of the recently enacted Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996 on HUD's oversight of Native American housing.

GAO noted that: (1) from fiscal year (FY) 1986 through FY 1995, HUD provided $4.3 billion (constant 1995 dollars) for housing and community development in tribal areas; (2) of this amount, HUD provided $3.9 billion to approximately 189 Native American 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 has provided direct block grants totalling over $424 million (constant 1995 dollars) 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 Native American housing authorities and the Native American communities they serve, land-use restrictions and the inhospitality of the land, the difficulty that contractors and Native American housing authorities have in complying with statutory requirements to give hiring preference to Native Americans, and the vandalism and neglect that make heavy demands on the scarce maintenance funds available to Native American housing authorities; (7) in December 1996, the Seattle Times reported 29 instances of possible mismanagement or misuse of federal funds by Native American housing authorities; (8) for example, the Times reported that Native American housing authorities used federal funds to build luxury homes, covered the mismanagement of one federal grant with funds from another grant, and reprogrammed large federal grants without HUD's approval; (9) HUD's Inspector General found that most of these reports were accurate; (10) GAO's work found that HUD does not effectively apply its system for alerting it to poorly performing Native American housing authorities across its Native American Programs field offices; (11) as a result, HUD may not be able to detect additional instances of mismanagement or misuse of funding; and (12) futhermore, HUD's approach to overseeing Native American housing may change, depending on regulations now being developed to implement the new Native American housing legislation.

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