Indian Housing Block Grant Program Can Be More Efficient, Report Says

Apr 2, 2014

Credit Wind River Reservation

A report by the Government Accountability Office says some things need to change in order for Indian tribes to be able to effectively carry out affordable housing activities under the Indian Housing Block Grant program. The program provides grants to tribes to build affordable housing. Remoteness of reservations and lack of infrastructure was one major challenge the report identified. But lack of coordination among federal agencies also delays initiatives and makes it harder to lump funds from various agencies for one project. Executive Director of the Northern Arapaho Tribal Housing Authority, Patrick Goggles, says that’s especially true when it comes to National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, compliance.

“All the federal agencies have a different method of environmental reviews. And if we use a mix of funds, say from HUD and maybe from USDA, Rural Development, and we use maybe funds from the Federal Home Loan Bank, they would all have different procedures for complying with NEPA,” says Goggles. 

The study also found that some tribes’ housing agencies have limited administrative capacity. The GAO recommends that federal agencies synchronize environmental requirements so the same review doesn’t have to be done several times and says Housing and Urban Development should more consistently share success stories amongst tribes so exemplary projects can be replicated. 

Goggles says the Northern Arapaho tribe has about 600 housing units too few, but there are currently 4 projects in the works.