The most effective housing and community development programs involve local communities as leaders. That principle of self-determination underlies the very structure of HUD’s Native American housing and community development programs. Although HUD provides tribes with funding under the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA) of 1996, the tribes themselves determine how best to use those funds to meet their housing needs.
Within HUD, the Office of Native American Programs (ONAP) administers the agency’s housing and community development programs for Native Americans. These programs direct hundreds of millions of dollars to communities, empowering them to implement locally driven housing strategies.
The Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) partners closely with ONAP for most of its programs. PD&R staff contribute expertise in a range of skills such as program development, data analysis, and program evaluation.
In particular, PD&R staff provide support related to data. HUD’s implementation of NAHASDA is one key example. Under NAHASDA, HUD must engage in negotiated rulemaking with tribal leaders. One of the major issues related to NAHASDA, proposed changes to the Indian Housing Block Grant funding formula, involves significant consideration of survey data. PD&R staff, including associate deputy assistant secretary Todd Richardson and former HUD analyst Ben Winter, have played a critical consulting role in these negotiations.
PD&R staff have also helped develop the new HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) for Native Americans program. Launched in 2008, HUD-VASH provides intensive case management and long-term housing assistance for highly vulnerable veterans who have experienced long-term homelessness. Homelessness among veterans has declined by 33 percent since January 2010, and HUD-VASH has played an important role in that decline. Until recently, however, the program’s rules prevented the use of HUD-VASH vouchers on tribal lands. In 2015, HUD-VASH expanded to include tribes that directly serve Native American veterans living on or near tribal lands.
PD&R’s research agenda has increasingly emphasized Indian housing issues. In partnership with ONAP, PD&R has led the Sustainable Construction in Indian Country initiative, which promotes and supports sustainable practices in Native American communities. PD&R published case studies of best practices in tribal housing, identified barriers to using sustainable construction practices in Indian Country, and provided technical assistance to tribes adopting these practices.
PD&R is also managing a forthcoming assessment of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian housing needs that promises to be the most complete national housing survey of this issue since PD&R’s Assessment of American Indian Housing Needs and Programs in 1996. The forthcoming assessment will inform policy and enable HUD to more effectively serve tribes. Because the assessment’s sampling methodology does not provide detailed information about any single tribe’s needs, however, studies of individual tribal communities remain critical.
This edition of Evidence Matters highlights the critical role of tribes in studying, developing, and implementing housing and community development strategies in their communities. PD&R is committed to partnering with tribes to address local needs and contexts in a culturally appropriate way.
— Katherine M. O’Regan, Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research
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