Time to address housing issues in Indian country<br>

A statement on President George W. Bush’s re-election

I would like to congratulate President George W. Bush on his re-election. The National American Indian Housing Council is grateful the President has affirmed his Administration’s commitment to honor the sovereignty of Alaska Natives and American Indian tribes.

The National American Indian Housing Council is looking forward to seeing the government-to-government relationship practiced throughout the various federal agencies in the next four years. We also look forward to working with the President and his Administration to help bring desperately needed housing and expanded economic development to our country’s First Americans, changing a culture of neglect that persists in this country.

During his first term, the President has acknowledged the needs in Indian country as he has initiated an increase for diabetes prevention, allocated significant funding for Indian education facilities and signed an executive order to recognize the unique and culturally related academic needs for Native students.

He has also recognized the housing needs in tribal communities as he recently signed the Homeownership Opportunities for Native Americans Act of 2004 into law. The act increases the federal guarantee under a key Native American housing loan program by restoring the loan repayment from 80 to 95 percent in case of default. This action is urgently needed in Indian country as the federal government holds the legal land title, therefore making the land unusable for collateral for loans.

Though President Bush has successes in Indian country, there remains much to be done. Unemployment and poverty rates remain in the double digits. Native Americans also continue to have one of the lowest life expectancy rates when compared with the rest of the U.S. population.

Housing conditions on reservations are no exception. Overcrowding and substandard housing go hand-in-hand in Indian country. Native Americans are three times more likely to live in overcrowded homes. Native Americans are also more likely than other Americans to lack sewage and water systems, telephone lines and electricity because their communities lay in rural areas.

President Bush proclaims his commitment to work with native people to increase employment and promote cooperation among federal agencies to foster greater economic development. In conjunction with this, the National American Indian Housing Council also requests that his administration increase funding for Indian housing and infrastructure, as inflation continues to pummel the housing construction industry. Congressional funding for Indian housing, as mandated by law through the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996 (NAHASDA), has also stayed stagnant for several years, hurting countless tribes in their pursuit to provide shelter for their people.

The National American Indian Housing Council is committed to extending its resources to the Bush Administration as it continues to contribute to the vitality of our Native American communities. Together, we can work to meet the severe housing shortages that exist on reservations to create culturally relevant, safe and affordable housing for all native people.

(Chester Carl is National American Indian Housing Council Chairman. NAIHC assists tribes and tribal housing entities in reaching their goals of providing culturally relevant, decent, safe, sanitary and affordable housing for Native people in Indian communities and Alaska Native villages.)

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