Header Image for Print
Evidence Matters Banner Image

Summer 2022   


HUD Supports Mitigation and Resilience in Tribal Communities

Many Native Americans live in areas that are particularly vulnerable to natural disasters. In 2019, the U.S. Census Bureau created a measure of a community’s capacity to respond to a disaster, the Community Resilience Estimate. Of the eight counties with at least 50 percent of residents deemed "at-risk" according to at least three resilience measures in the Community Resilience Estimate, five include tribal lands (two on the Navajo reservation and one each on the Crow Creek, Pine Ridge, and Cheyenne River Indian reservations), and another, Kusilvak Census Area, has a population that is approximately 90 percent American Indian or Alaska Native.1 HUD’s Climate Action Plan acknowledges "the history of environmental inequities that has created barriers to achieving climate resilience in Tribal communities."2 Inequities can be quite severe and significantly inhibit climate resilience and general health. For example, many tribal communities have limited access to clean water; approximately 15 percent of Navajo Nation has no access to piped water in their homes.3

Across several programs, HUD seeks to support tribal communities in increasing climate resilience. HUD’s Indian Housing Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program provides both competitively awarded single-purpose grants and first-come, first-served "imminent threat" grants to address immediate health and safety threats.4

HUD’s Office of Native American Programs (ONAP) has funding sources that localities can use for climate change and disaster mitigation initiatives, including energy- and water-efficiency retrofits in HUD-assisted housing. ONAP also gives technical assistance to support sustainable, net-zero buildings and has created a climate resilience and adaptation website that describes funding and other resources to help tribes address climate change.5

Other federal government programs that offer tribes funding and assistance to increase climate resilience include the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Tribal Climate Resilience Program (TCRP), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Tribal Green Building Toolkit, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s hazard mitigation assistance grants.6 In fiscal year 2021, TCRP awarded nearly $14 million to 79 tribes and 13 tribal organizations for climate adaptation planning and management.7

HUD’s Climate Change Opportunity

An award-winning exemplar of climate mitigation, the Puyallup Nation Housing Authority’s Places of Hidden Waters in Tacoma, Washington, provides culturally and environmentally responsive housing for Native American residents. Two stretches of 10 contiguous townhomes mimic the traditional longhouse form and are oriented to optimize passive solar heating and cooling. Ground-source heat pumps in the first phase of building and a solar installation in the second phase, combined with structural insulated panels forming a tight building envelope, help reduce energy use and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions dramatically. The homes achieved Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Homes Platinum certification. 8

Climate Adaptation and Resilience in Tribal Communities

In some cases, the consequences of climate change demand dramatic adaptation measures. On Louisiana’s Gulf Coast, coastal erosion and sea level rise have diminished the Isle de Jean Charles from more than 22,000 acres to only 320 acres. People of American Indian ancestry have made up most of the island’s population, but remaining on the island has become increasingly untenable. In 2016, HUD awarded $48.3 million in CDBG funds to begin the voluntary relocation of residents from the island to places less vulnerable to disaster. The project includes the development of a planned com- munity with more than 500 homes, commercial and retail space, walking trails, and a community center, among other amenities. 9 In this development, which residents named The New Isle, relocated residents will hold a mortgage, one-fifth of which will be forgiven each year for 5 years; residents will not be required to make payments as long as the property remains a primary residence and is insured. 10

Because of the historic environmental inequities and the particular geographic vulnerabilities facing many tribal communities, ongoing support from HUD and other federal agencies is essential to help these communities mitigate climate change and build resilience against current and future climate-related threats.

  1. Alex Leeds Matthews. 2021."Where Americans Are Most Vulnerable to Disaster," U.S. News & World Report, 13 October.
  2. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 2021."Climate Action Plan," 33.
  3. U.S. Department of Homeland Security. 2021."National Preparedness Report," 9.
  4. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development 2021, 13.
  5. "Tribal Climate Resilience and Adaptation," U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website (www.hud.gov/program_offices/public_indian_housing/ih/tribal_climate_resilience_and_adaptation) . Accessed 16 June 2022.
  6. Ibid.
  7. U.S. Department of Indian Affairs. n.d. "BIA announces Tribal Climate Resilience Grants totaling $13.84 million awarded for FY 2021," Accessed 7 April 2022.
  8. Jamie Blosser, Nathaniel Corum, Daniel Glenn, Joseph Kunkel, and Ed Rosenthal. 2014. "Best Practices in Tribal Housing: Case Studies 2013," Prepared for U.S. Depart- ment of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Policy Development and Research, 42–5.
  9. "Isle De Jean Charles Resettlement," Isle De Jean Charles Resettlement website (isledejeancharles.la.gov/). Accessed 15 June 2022.
  10. "Resettlement Plan," Isle De Jean Charles Resettlement website (isledejeancharles.la.gov/resettlement-plan). Accessed 15 June 2022.


Back to Article               Evidence Matters Home