New Study Shows Tribes Nationwide Need About 68,000 Homes

Feb 2, 2017

Many homes on the Wind River Reservation need funds to refurbish them so they are habitable again.
Credit Melodie Edwards

The Housing and Urban Development Office has released a large scale study evaluating the severity of the housing crisis in Indian Country. It’s the most comprehensive research conducted on the subject and the only study of its kind in about 20 years. The study concludes there’s a need for about 68,000 new homes across tribal lands nationwide.

HUD commissioned the Urban Institute to conduct the study. Researcher Nancy Pindus was one of the lead authors and said, with such a huge shortage, many tribes are suffering from a unique form of homelessness in which people crowd together in the limited number of homes available rather than put people on the streets. She said since the passage of the Native American Self Determination Act in 1996, tribes have been given more power to help solve the problem. But they haven’t been given more money.

“The situation is still quite dire,” she said. “There is still a tremendous shortage of housing. And part of the reason is that, while the funding has remained pretty consistent over this 17 to 20 years, inflation has eroded the actual value of those dollars.”

Pindus said they found that 34 percent of Native American households struggle with problems like poor plumbing, a lack of adequate heating or overcrowding.

They also documented how hard it is for tribal members to obtain mortgages or building loans because of the complexity of land ownership on reservations.

“Land got passed down to heirs over a number of generations but it never got divided,” she said. “So you’ll have a parcel of property you want to build on and there could be, you know, 20 owners listed on that property. And if one of those owners wants to build on that property they’ve got to get the others to approve that.”

Pindus said, the study recommends Congress use data such as this to monitor Native American housing needs closely until the housing crisis is dealt with.