House of Representatives Pass HEARTH Act

Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - Washington, DC

Focus shifts to the Senate for floor action.

The House of Representatives today passed, under the suspension rule, the "Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership Act of 2011," or the HEARTH Act (H.R. 205).

The bill amends the Indian Long-Term Leasing Act of 1955 (25 U.S.C. ยง 415) to reform federal leasing requirements and encourage housing and community development in Native American communities. The Act would allow tribes to enter into certain surface leases without prior expressed approval of the Secretary of the Interior.

"We are thrilled the HEARTH Act was passed out of the House today. This important piece of legislation supports tribal self-determination by promoting tribal control over the long-term leasing process on tribal land. It is a huge step in the right direction and will help increase tribal homeownership and economic development across Indian Country," said NAIHC Chairwoman Cheryl A. Causley. "I also extend our sincere gratitude to Representative Martin Heinrich, the Natural Resources Committee and all the co-sponsors, who recognized the importance of homeownership for native families and expanding economic opportunity in tribal communities."

Representative Heinrich (D-NM) introduced the House version of the bill (H.R. 205) on January 6, 2011, and the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs passed the bill by unanimous consent on November 17, 2011.

"We all know how important homeownership is to healthy communities, and the last thing the federal government should do is stand in the way of families ready and willing to buy a house," said Rep. Heinrich, currently serving his second term on the House Committee on Natural Resources. "There are many Native families who would prefer to stay and raise their children in the communities where their families have lived for generations-but instead have had to move from Indian Country to nearby cities because they want to own a home. Families shouldn't be forced to make such an important decision based on how many months or years it will take a federal bureaucracy to approve a mortgage on tribal land."

Representatives Tom Cole (R-OK) and Eni F.H. Faleomavaega (D-America Samoa) also spoke in favor of passing the HEARTH Act today. Rep. Cole stated, "This legislation will help break down the barriers of economic development by making needed reforms to tribal leasing regulations. H.R. 205 will streamline the existing bureaucratic process for leasing tribal trust lands by providing Indian tribes with the options to develop and manage their own surface leasing regimes. Passage of H.R. 205 will enable tribal governments to assume responsibility for the management of their lands, reduce federal cost and government liability, and encourage more housing and economic development on Indian lands resulting ultimately in job creation. This bill has strong bi-partisan support, is a priority for Indian Country and is strongly supported by the Administration. It empowers tribes, encourages tribal self-government, decreases the dependency of tribes on the federal government and speeds up economic development in Indian Country."

Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) introduced the Senate version of this bill, S.703, on March 31, 2011. The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held a mark-up hearing in July 2012 during which Committee Chairman Daniel Akaka (D-HI) amended the bill to include S.676, a bill that reaffirms the Secretary of the Interior's role of taking land into trust for Indian tribes (the so-called "Carcieri fix"). Senator Barrasso's bill, S.703 - as amended - is pending on the Senate floor.

NAIHC encourages the Senate leadership to consider action on S.703 before its summer recess. The HEARTH Act continues to be one of NAIHC's top legislative priorities.

Click here for Rep. Heinrich's press release.

 

The National American Indian Housing Council (NAIHC) was founded in 1974 as a 501(c)(3) corporation. NAIHC is the only national organization representing housing interests of Native people who reside in Indian communities, Alaska Native Villages, and on native Hawaiian Home Lands.

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