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Opinion
Opinion: Downfall of top Navajo housing official


"Perhaps the most important tribal expert and national leader on Indian housing, Navajo Housing Authority CEO Chester Carl, was suspended by the Department of Housing and Urban Development for accepting gifts worth thousands of dollars from a contractor doing business with NHA. As the Navajo Times reported on Nov. 2: ''Carl is one of the most influential Native Americans in the housing industry, and headed the largest Indian housing authority in the U.S.''

Given Carl's shrewd political skills, lengthy service as the tribal-side leader when HUD and tribal officials came together, and possibly unequalled knowledge of the Native American Housing and Self-Determination Act of 1996 - the law governing allocation of funds for Indian housing programs - Carl's departure is likely to be felt not just on the Navajo Nation, but across Indian country.

It would be hard to overemphasize the role Carl has played in Indian housing since the passage of NAHASDA. As twice-elected chairman of the National American Indian Housing Council, Carl was instrumental in advocating for incremental increases in congressional allocations to fund tribal housing programs as well as in helping increase the knowledge across tribes of the policies and programs most effective in meeting the housing needs of Indian communities. Finally, although HUD moved into more of a facilitating than a directing role under NAHASDA, when items did come up for negotiation, in their interactions with HUD officials tribes made sure to send their best forward: Carl was the face of the tribal side of Indian housing.

Indian housing needs are acute. Before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs last year, Carl, in his role as NAIHC chairman, testified, ''Native Americans are three times more likely to live in overcrowded housing than other Americans. Native Americans are more likely to lack sewage and water systems, and more likely to lack telephone lines and electricity than other Americans.'' Carl concluded by urging Congress not to ''forget the desperate housing conditions Native Americans are enduring day after day.''"

Get the Story:
Ezra Rosser: Suspension of Indian housing leader impacts all tribes (Indian Country Today 11/23)

Relevant Links:
Office of Public and Indian Housing, HUD - http://www.hud.gov/offices/pih
National American Indian Housing Council - http://naihc.net

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