NAHASDA funding on the Navajo Nation will help 8,000-plus families

WINDOW ROCK -- The 2005 Indian Housing Plan has been initiated on the Navajo Nation, sending nearly $85 million across the reservation for various housing activities funded by the Native American Housing and Self Determination Act block grant funding.

In spring 2004, Navajo Housing Authority began advertising request for proposals for the fiscal year 2005 IHP, which consummated with final approval of the Navajo Nation Council in Dec. 2004.

The IHP was submitted to US Housing and Urban Development Southwest Office in Jan. 2005. The final IHP was officially certified by HUD on April 7.

"This current grant year is available for use over the next two year period from April 2005 to April 2007," said Louis Shepherd, grants manager for the NHA Grants Management Dept.

"Funding recipients have a general obligation to obligate and expend these monies within this two year timeframe and ideally, complete these funded projects," Shepherd said.

For FY 2005, the Navajo Housing Authority has received $84,510,425, which will assist as many as 8,686 Navajo families across the reservation. Shepherd said sub-recipient grantees will receive $43,427,400 of block grant funding for the projects across the Navajo Nation.

Previously, the NAHASDA block grant funding peaked in FY 2002, when NHA received $94,502,939 for housing activities on the Navajo Nation.

Although the FY '05 funding amount is lower, the mission to help Navajo families with affordable, quality homes remains the same.

"The plan is intended to help families throughout the Navajo Nation through housing assistance, general administration activities, support services, modernization and renovation of housing units and in some cases, new construction activities," Shepherd said.

He said specific examples include grants and projects administered by the NHA construction services division and modernization of existing stock or housing units previously constructed by NHA, under the former 1937 Housing Act.

"Plans under this grant are to modernize up to 115 units throughout the reservation service area," Shepherd said. "In addition, NHA will be developing or constructing up to 150 scattered site homes for low income families throughout the reservation."

NHA will also continue taking responsibility with implementation of the Section 504 Program, which is based on the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, designed to bring housing units and facilities into compliance with accessibility standards.

There are plans to assist up to 90 clients for compliance with this Section 504 requirement, which will ensure living units accommodate clientele with learning or physical disabilities, through installation of furnishings or equipment whether in the interior or exterior of the home, Shepherd added.

"There are a few other providers or programs scheduled to develop new housing units for construction activities," he said. "This includes the Navajo Mountain Community School.

"They plan on developing 13 public rental units for school personnel," he added.

The Navajo Townsite Community Development in Navajo, N.M. plans on constructing as many as 40 new housing units. This $5 million development will have Tract A and Tract B sites, offering two new developments for the community.

Southwest Indian Foundation in Gallup, N.M. will receive funding from NHA as well, in the amount of $334,958. SWIF assists the very low income families with homes and FY '05 funds will be used to assist up to seven families on the reservation.

The Utah Navajo Trust Fund plans to construct 25 scattered site homes for low income families in the Utah portion of the Navajo Nation. The UNTF will receive$3.5 million to complete this project, Shepherd said.

"Those are some examples of the new developments and new construction activities. There are more activities included in this fiscal year housing plan, including renovation activities," Shepherd added.

Projects like the 16 units in Alamo, N.M. will be administered by the Navajo Housing Services Dept. The Alamo Project will receive $168,960.

Beyond that, Shepherd said Navajo Partnership for Housing has been instrumental with providing counseling services for homebuyer education throughout the reservation.

Another facet of funding are the administrative planning and pre-engineering activities, Shepherd said, including grant assistance in the amount of $188,040 for 30 units for low income families, planned by the Ba Hooghan Shelter in Ft. Defiance.

Indigenous Community Enterprises, based in Flagstaff, will be building 12 Elder Hogan Homes for the elderly across the reservation. Shepherd said ICE is currently identifying families for the project before funds are released.

The Rural Innovations and Strategic Empowerment for Unity and Progress program will be developing 20 scattered sites in Monument Valley, Utah area and another 20 sites in Oljato, Utah. The units will be constructed at a cost of $200,000 each.

Currently, RISE UP is conducting planning and engineering services.

"The Shiprock Home for Women and Children will be planning for 20 additional apartment-style units in Shiprock, New Mexico at a cost of $1,199,175. Plans are to implement these activities in the summer of 2005," Shepherd said.

He said the goal is to complete all housing units for the Indian Housing plan within the two-year time frame. This eighth annual NAHASDA funding release, could very well be the last time we see funding at the current levels, he said.

"As far as NHA is aware, we do anticipate budget cuts based upon the proposed budget introduced by the president to Congress for FY 2006. There are going to be significant cuts in the Indian Housing Block Grants on a national scale and the effects will be felt here on the Navajo Nation," Shepherd said.

According to the proposed budget from President George Bush, NHA will receive $65.2 million, a substantial cut by more than $30 million. To address the tremendous need for housing throughout Indian Country, it is estimated $1.25 billion dollars is required.

"Beyond FY 2006 largely depends on the national priorities and the continuing involvement in the war," Shepherd said. "That is likely to affect all discretionary block grant programs nationally.

"Therein likes the challenge to make the best use of the funds and find opportunities for leveraging these funds. We invite financial institutions and lenders to contribute to the needs on the Navajo Nation, the need for shelter," he added.

(Rick Abasta is Public Information Officer for the Navajo Housing Authority.)

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