Modest changes would bring more opportunities to Indian Country

It was an honor and a privilege to offer my perspective on the housing crisis plaguing Indian Country at a July 24 hearing on “Housing Partnerships in Indian Country” for the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs in Washington, D.C.

I was asked to share three changes that I believe might help ease the housing crisis. They are:

  • A modest change to the way commercial banks can meet their obligations under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) could well provide millions in additional housing capital to Indian Country through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit and New Markets Tax Credit programs. As a result of Hurricane Katrina, federal bank regulators created the Gulf Opportunity Zone (GO Zone) as a way to encourage immediate investment in the Gulf Coast. I believe a similar safe harbor for banks to invest on American Indian reservations would encourage banks to enter into partnerships with tribes to build affordable housing.
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  • A modest change to the way federal grants are administered for tribes would result in many millions of dollars being provided by private investors for infrastructure and community facilities on reservations.The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs committee should instruct all federal grant-making agencies, including the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, and all sub-agencies to provide explicit allowances for grants made to Indian tribes and tribal colleges to allow them to be considered loans for the purpose of including them in a New Markets Tax Credit transaction.
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  • Finally, as Ms. Cheryl Causley suggested in her testimony, I would urge the Committee to ask that a body be created to coordinate the many federal agencies that provide funding and oversight for Indian reservations so as to lessen the discrepancies between the different rules and regulations tribes are faced with. This body could serve as a facilitator or mediator when rules and regulations conflict with the goals of the various agencies and the goals and aspirations of the tribes, tribal housing authorities and tribal colleges.

I believe these modest changes would bring additional millions of dollars in private investment for much-needed housing, infrastructure, administrative facilities, college classroom and dormitory buildings and many more developments to Indian Country, creating thousands of jobs in economically depressed areas of the country.

If you have questions or comments about these changes, please email me at info@travois.com.

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