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Housing campaign seeks to build 100,000 homes
Friday, February 27, 2004

The National American Indian Housing Council on Thursday launched a major initiative to help tribes build 100,000 homes in the next 10 years.

With the assistance of some prominent Indian leaders, NAIHC plans to raise $10 million for "Housing First for First Americans." The capacity building campaign will address low home ownership rates among Native Americans and other issues such as overcrowding, which is six times more prevalent for Native Americans than the general population.

"Each day that passes is another day we have families enduring deplorable housing conditions," said NAIHC chairman Russell Sossamon, the housing director for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

Elouise Cobell, the executive director of the Native American Community Development Corporation, will serve as one of the co-chairs of the campaign. At NAIHC's annual legislative conference in Washington, D.C., yesterday, she said she jumped at the chance to participate.

"Home mortgages are the beginning of many ways that we can develop our economies in our Indian communities," said Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Nation of Montana.

Keller George, president of the United South and Eastern Tribes (USET), is another co-chair. As the first housing director for his tribe, the Oneida Nation of New York, he said he is familiar with the need for adequate housing.

"This is really an opportunity ... to make a difference in Indian Country," he said. "If we set our sights on something, we as Indian people can do it."

The final co-chair is Daniel Mudd, vice chairman and chief operating officer of Fannie Mae, a private company that provided $290 million last year to help Indian families realize the dream of home ownership. To kickstart the fundraising effort, Mudd presented NAIHC with a check for $1 million yesterday.

"Action will speak loud and clear in this campaign," he said.

NAIHC executive director Gary Gordon said the co-chairs will look to a variety of sources -- private and tribal -- in order to raise $10 million this year. "It's going to be pretty far-reaching in terms of who are going to solicit from," he said during a press conference.

Gordon added that NAIHC will not just focus on building new homes but on rehabilitation and rentals. "It's going to be a comprehensive campaign," he said.

Housing First for First Americans consists of 19 separate initiatives. Among other goals, NAIHC will help tribal housing staff, expand training, communications, research and assistance, promote homeownership, promote reputable lenders, fight predatory lending, develop partnerships and establish national and regional Indian Country housing centers. A web site for Native homebuyers is also in the works.

The demand for housing on tribal lands is immediate and great. According to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, at least 200,000 homes are needed in Indian Country.

According to other government statistics, only 33 percent of Native Americans own homes, less than half the national rate and far lower than homeownership rates for other minority groups.

Relevant Links:
National American Indian Housing Council - http://naihc.net
Fannie Mae - http://www.fanniemae.com

Related Stories:
Senate panel shares criticism of Bush budget (02/12)
Tribal leaders pressing Congress on funding (02/11)
Native American Bank offers new mortgage program (01/21)
Indians fight discrimination when renting homes (11/21)

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