With the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA) set to expire on September 30, 2013, Washington Senator Maria Cantwell and Wyoming Senator John Barrasso are working in alliance with several other senators to introduce a piece of legislation formally known as S.1352. The legislation seeks to reauthorize NAHASDA after being renewed twice over the last 10 years.

The act was created by Congress in 1996 to help Tribes all over the country acquire adequate and affordable housing options. According to a report from Senator Barrasso regarding the bill, as many as 28% of American Indian households don’t have adequate plumbing and kitchen facilities, compared to 5.4% non-tribal households who lack such infrastructure on a national level.

Currently there are 90,000 reported Native American families homeless and a demand for 200,000 housing units. Despite the statistic from the 2009 Annual Homeless Assessment Report that Native Americans only made up a little less than 1% of the general population, the report also found that the ethnic group accounted for 8% of the country’s homeless population. A 2010 report from the General Accounting Office found that 46% of Native American households are overcrowded, in their limited reservation communities.

The current law will not only be renewed, but will be improved as well. Renovations of the bill include increasing the amount of tax credits received by major developers and investors that help to serve Tribal communities, allowing tribal access to HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program (HUD-VASH), and raising the total development cost ceilings to promote cleaner and more sustainable projects.

A statement from Senator Cantwell shows that he himself as a leader recognizes the current status of Native American communities and their households.

“Our bill responds to a fundamental need on our nation’s Indian reservations: safe, adequate housing for low income Indian people.   Without adequate housing, families can’t thrive and parents can’t provide a healthy environment for their children so they can do well in school and life.  This problem takes a toll on entire reservation communities and we have to address it,” Barrasso said.  “I look forward to working with the Chairwoman and other members of the Committee to move this bill forward in the Senate as soon as possible.”

Other senators who are working in promoting this extension: Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Mark Begich (D-AK), Al Franken (D-MN), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)

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Alex Ferreras
Alex Ferreras
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