February 16, 2011

Udall Meets with Indian Housing Leaders

Senator Discusses Work to Expand Access to Affordable, Safe Housing on Native Lands

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) today discussed the importance of access to quality, affordable housing in Indian Country with members of the National American Indian Housing Council, who were in Washington for their annual legislative conference.

Udall, a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, highlighted his work in the Senate to maintain federal funding for tribal housing programs, and urged attendees to work together to find innovative ways to address the lack of affordable, safe housing on Native lands.

"The group gathered here today represent some of the most capable minds in tribal issues," Udall said. "You are doing important work to get the message out to Congress that housing is key to economic stability and development. But I also urge you to use this great collection of talent to look creatively at tribal housing. Together, we can find new ways to leverage limited federal dollars, build economies, and strengthen communities through housing."

Studies have repeatedly shown that lack of affordable housing - and the suffering that accompanies it - is an all too common problem in Indian Country. Native Americans are more likely to be homeless than the general population, more likely to live in overcrowded homes, and less likely to have basic necessities like plumbing, telephone service, and kitchens.

Last year, Udall led the fight against proposed funding cuts to tribal housing programs, urging the Senate Appropriations Committee to restore proposed reductions for fiscal year 2011. The success of that effort is apparent in the president's fiscal year 2012 budget released earlier this week, funding for tribal housing programs was kept at the same level.

Udall also was a co-sponsor last Congress of the HEARTH Act, which would allow tribes to develop their own land leasing regulations. Specifically, the bill would amend the Indian Long-Term Leasing Act of 1955 to authorize Indian tribal governments to create surface land leasing regulations for the leasing of lands for housing and community related purposes. Udall is working with his colleagues in the Senate to introduce the legislation again this Congress.