The Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996 (NAHASDA) made unprecedented changes in the way the federal government provides housing assistance funds to tribes throughout the nation. NAHASDA replaced the one-size-fits-all programs with a single Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG) program. Each tribe receives a direct allocation of IHBG funding, based on a funding formula that distributes equitable shares of the annual appropriation made by Congress. The tribe may entrust its IHBG to a Tribally-Designated Housing Entity (TDHE), who will carry out the tribe’s housing assistance program. IRHA is the TDHE for the Doyon Region encompassing Interior Alaska and currently serves 21 tribes.
The primary objectives, under which all Tribes and their TDHEs operate, are:
- To assist and promote affordable housing activities
- To develop and operate housing in a safe and healthy environment on Indian reservations and in other Indian areas for occupancy by low-income families.
- To ensure better access to private mortgage markets for Indian Tribes and their members, and to promote self-sufficiency of Indian Tribes and their members.
- To promote self-sufficiency and coordinate activities to provide housing for Indian Tribes and their members.
- To plan for and integrate infrastructure resources for Indian Tribes with housing development.
- To promote the development of private capital markets in Indian Country and to allow such markets to operate and grow, thereby benefiting Indian Communities.
These objectives represent a complete shift in government philosophy concerning support of housing for Native Americans. NAHASDA did away with the old inflexible programs that provided little chance for advancement or economic opportunity. In their place is a landscape that affords tribes the opportunity to multiply funding through partnership with financial institutions and state government, to make wise use of locally available materials and resources, and to preserve existing housing.
With opportunity comes responsibility. Federal funding cannot meet all of the housing needs of Native Americans, and now, under NAHASDA, tribes are expected to use federal funds to attract other resources. Not unlike the Biblical parable of the talents, those tribes and TDHEs that are effective stewards of their IHBG funding and are able to add to it through creative partnership and leverage will be rewarded. They will improve the quality of life for their people, and will find that their success attracts even greater opportunity. Those who shy away ultimately risk not only lost opportunity but also face the penalties that come with nonperformance, including loss of their IHBG funds.
IRHA has accepted the challenge of NAHASDA. Working together with tribes, IRHA is preserving housing throughout the region, making homes safer, more comfortable, and more energy-efficient. Through innovative mortgage lending programs, IRHA is bringing private mortgage capital and the advantages of conventional homeownership to Alaskan Native families, and is significantly multiplying the number of families that it can assist far beyond those it could serve with IHBG funds alone.
To be sure, it is a growth process, and requires ongoing outreach and education to stakeholders and customers. But it is an exciting process, one that promises a bright future and most importantly housing that works for the Native people of Interior Alaska.
Address – 828 27th Avenue, Fairbanks, Alaska 99701 Phone – 907.452.8315