Tribal Homeownership Bill Passes Senate, Heads to White House

Thursday, July 19, 2012 - Washington, DC

The top legislative priority for the National American Indian Housing Council (NAIHC) passed the U.S. Senate by a 100-0 vote, and was sent to President Obama for his consideration. The bill, H.R. 205 - Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership Act of 2011 (HEARTH Act), passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 400-0 in May.  

The legislation 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 will authorize interested tribes to negotiate and enter into certain surface leases without approval of the Secretary of the Interior.  

"The passage of the HEARTH Act is a long awaited victory for tribes and tribal housing programs across Indian Country. NAIHC was on the front-line of this bill and I am so proud of our members and all tribal leaders who sent hundreds of letters to Congress, testified to Congress about the need for this bill as a means to fix long-standing delays in home-site leasing and brought together Congressional staff and leaders from both sides of the aisle to agree on critical provisions. Today we savor this victory and extend our thanks to Congressman Heinrich, House and Senate leadership and the Indian housing advocates who have worked diligently to advance a piece of legislation that will change the face of surface site leasing in Indian Country," said NAIHC Chairwoman Cheryl A. Causley.

For two consecutive Congresses, NAIHC has strongly supported and actively advocated for the HEARTH Act since its introduction by Representative Martin Heinrich (D-NM) in 2009.  

"This is about building homes, creating jobs and protecting tribal sovereignty," said Rep. Heinrich. "Indian Country faces a serious housing shortage, and this bill will help bring new investment in housing and economic development to tribal communities across New Mexico.  The HEARTH Act will give tribes the authority to make their own decisions about leases for homes and businesses on their tribal lands. The last thing the federal government should do is stand in the way of a family who wants to buy a home, and this bill will help make it easier for Native families to buy houses in the communities where their families have lived for generations."

Mellor Willie, NAIHC Executive Director added, "The legislation will go a long way in strengthening tribal self-determination and at the same time boosting tribal economies. The bill respects and fosters Indian tribal decision-making, expedites what can often be lengthy Federal administrative processes, and will improve the delivery of Federal housing assistance and expand economic opportunity in tribal communities."

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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