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Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Craig Thomas and Mike Enzi, both R-Wyo., said legislation passed by the Senate last week would give Native American tribes more control over federal funding used for tribal housing initiatives.

The Senate unanimously passed the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Reauthorization Act (NAHASDA), S. 1210. The legislation would reauthorize NAHASDA through 2007 and amend the original legislation established by Congress in 1996. NAHASDA was designed to give Indian tribes more control over housing assistance by providing block grants for affordable housing activities.

"As Native American tribes continue to search for ways to improve housing options, flexible funding becomes all the more vital. Studies have shown that housing conditions on American Indian reservations are some of the worst in the nation, this is why I was pleased to see that my Senate colleagues also saw significant merit in this bill and approved it by unanimous consent," Thomas said.

"Too often Native American input is left out of the equation when it comes to planning for tribal housing needs," said Enzi. "This legislation would give tribes more discretion in the use of federal housing funds and would help them to better meet the housing needs of their communities."

The reauthorizing legislation would allow tribes to use loan guarantees for businesses and other activities that help decrease the cost of affordable housing. It would also permit tribes to apply for loan guarantees without being required to show that no other financing is available for community development activities.

The bill would give tribes increased flexibility in using NAHASDA funds for comprehensive planning for housing and community development needs.

The legislation also requires the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to conduct two studies to determine the feasibility of establishing demonstration programs that would allow tribes to use NAHASDA funds for community development activities and better maximize tribal self-determination.

Another provision would allow tribes to use NAHASDA funds even if other money from previous housing programs remains.

Thomas is a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. Enzi is a member of the Senate Banking Committee. Each committee shares jurisdiction over Indian housing programs administered by HUD.

Similar legislation is currently being considered in the House.