Native American Housing:

Tribes Generally View Block Grant Program as Effective, but Tracking of Infrastructure Plans and Investments Needs Improvement

GAO-10-326: Published: Feb 25, 2010. Publicly Released: Feb 25, 2010.

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The Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996 (NAHASDA) changed how the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides housing assistance to Native Americans. Congress created NAHASDA to recognize self-determination for tribes in addressing their low-income housing needs. In NAHASDA's 2008 reauthorization, Congress asked GAO to assess the program's effectiveness. This report discusses (1) how tribes have used NAHASDA funds, (2) how NAHASDA has improved the process of providing tribes with funds for housing, and (3) the extent to which NAHASDA has contributed to infrastructure improvements in tribal communities. GAO analyzed agency documentation, surveyed all tribes receiving grants in fiscal year 2008, conducted site visits with select tribes, and interviewed officials at HUD and other agencies.

Native American tribes have used NAHASDA block grant funds to develop new housing and to provide other types of housing assistance to eligible members, but fewer small grantees have developed new housing. Out of 359 grantees in fiscal year 2008, 102 received less than $250,000, with 22 of those reporting that they had developed new housing over the life of their participation in the program. Smaller grantees often provide tenant-based rental assistance and other such services to members, but HUD neither tracks activities that are not unit-based (units built, acquired, or rehabilitated) nor reports those activities to Congress. However, HUD is revising its reporting to track more activities, which should help efforts to assess the impact of NAHASDA. Most grantees that we surveyed and interviewed view NAHASDA as effective, largely because it emphasizes tribal self-determination. Grantees feel the program has helped to improve housing conditions and increase access to affordable housing, but they reported that developing housing finance mechanisms and increasing economic development remain as challenges. Housing-related infrastructure development is an affordable housing activity under NAHASDA, but HUD does not collect grantees' infrastructure plans or measure their infrastructure investments. Indian Health Service (IHS) data show an acute need for sanitation-related infrastructure in Indian housing, and 85 percent of grantees responding to our survey reported that developing infrastructure, such as providing homes with access to drinking water, was a continuing need. According to IHS officials, HUD can access IHS data on sanitation deficiencies under a 2007 memorandum of understanding between the agencies. HUD could use this data to track grantees' efforts to address a key need in their communities and broaden the scope of accomplishment data it reports to Congress. This data could also help grantees identify any unmet sanitation needs they might address with their NAHASDA grants.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In our February 2010 report on the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996 (NAHASDA) program, we found that HUD did not track NAHASDA grantees' plans to address their housing-related infrastructure needs. We recommended that in its revision of the Indian Housing Plan/Annual Performance Report (IHP/APR) for the grant program, HUD ensure that the IHP and APR assess the effectiveness of infrastructure development in meeting the needs of low-income Native Americans, such as by measuring the number of low-income Native Americans that have better access to drinking water or a safe heat source. In February 2011, OMB approved HUD's new IHP/APR form, which HUD will implement for fiscal year 2012. The IHP section of the form now allows grantees to list and provide details on the housing programs they plan to pursue. Each program description must include the eligible activity, its intended outcome, planned outputs, who will be assisted, and types and levels of assistance. HUD instructs grantees to distinguish individual programs in their reporting so that they and HUD can track the tasks and results related to each program. In the related APR section of the form, grantees report the actual number of households served by each program.

    Recommendation: To better assess the extent to which NAHASDA is meeting its objectives of providing safe and healthy homes and coordinating infrastructure with housing development for low-income Native Americans, the HUD's Office of Native American Programs should ensure that its revised Indian Housing Plan and Annual Performance Report assess the effectiveness of infrastructure development in meeting the needs of low-income Native Americans, such as by measuring the number of low-income Native Americans that have better access to drinking water or a safe heat source.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development: Office of Native American Programs

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In our February 2010 report on the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996 (NAHASDA) program, we found that HUD did not track NAHASDA grantees' use of NAHASDA grant funds to address housing-related infrastructure needs. We recommended that in its revision of the Indian Housing Plan/Annual Performance Report (IHP/APR) for the grant program, HUD ensure that the IHP and APR measure the extent to which grantees are using NAHASDA grant funds and Title VI loan guarantees under NAHASDA for housing-related infrastructure development. In February 2011, OMB approved HUD's new IHP/APR form, which HUD will implement for fiscal year 2012. In the APR section of the form, grantees are required to report actual NAHASDA grant expenditures for each of the housing programs they indicated they would pursue in the IHP section. Because the IHP/APR form is for grant reporting, it tracks grantees' use of Title VI funds separately from grant funds, along with other sources of funding grantees may use for affordable housing activities.

    Recommendation: To better assess the extent to which NAHASDA is meeting its objectives of providing safe and healthy homes and coordinating infrastructure with housing development for low-income Native Americans, the HUD's Office of Native American Programs should ensure that its revised Indian Housing Plan and Annual Performance Report measure the extent to which NAHASDA grantees are using IHBG funds and Title VI loan guarantees for housing-related infrastructure development.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development: Office of Native American Programs

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In our February 2010 report on the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996 (NAHASDA) program, we found that HUD did not track NAHASDA grantees' plans to address their housing-related infrastructure needs. We recommended that in its revision of the Indian Housing Plan/Annual Performance Report (IHP/APR) for the grant program, HUD ensure that the IHP and APR capture tribes' plans for addressing their identified infrastructure needs. In February 2011, OMB approved HUD's new IHP/APR form, which HUD will implement for fiscal year 2012. The IHP section of the form now allows grantees to list and provide details on the housing programs they plan to pursue. Each program description must include the eligible activity, its intended outcome, planned outputs, who will be assisted, and types and levels of assistance.

    Recommendation: To better assess the extent to which NAHASDA is meeting its objectives of providing safe and healthy homes and coordinating infrastructure with housing development for low-income Native Americans, the HUD's Office of Native American Programs should ensure that its revised Indian Housing Plan and Annual Performance Report capture tribes' plans for addressing their identified infrastructure needs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development: Office of Native American Programs

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In our February 2010 report on the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996 (NAHASDA) program, we found that HUD did not track NAHASDA grantees' housing-related infrastructure needs. We recommended that in its revision of the Indian Housing Plan/Annual Performance Report (IHP/APR) for the grant program, HUD ensure that the IHP and APR capture data on tribes' infrastructure-related needs. In February 2011, OMB approved HUD's new IHP/APR form, which HUD will implement for fiscal year 2012. The IHP section of the form now clearly lists "infrastructure to support housing" among grantees' potential housing needs and allows grantees to indicate infrastructure among their existing housing needs.

    Recommendation: To better assess the extent to which NAHASDA is meeting its objectives of providing safe and healthy homes and coordinating infrastructure with housing development for low-income Native Americans, the HUD's Office of Native American Programs should ensure that its revised Indian Housing Plan and Annual Performance Report capture data on tribes' infrastructure-related needs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development: Office of Native American Programs

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In our February 2010 report on the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996 (NAHASDA) program, we found that HUD did not track NAHASDA grantees' housing-related infrastructure needs. To help grantees identify their infrastructure needs, we recommended that HUD provide them with data obtained from the Indian Health Service (IHS) on homes in the grantees' service area, particularly those homes that are statutorily precluded from receiving IHS-funded sanitation construction services. In April 2010, HUD reported that its Office of Native American Programs had provided grantees with a link to IHS's sanitation database on HUD's Web site.

    Recommendation: To help grantees identify their existing sanitation infrastructure needs, the HUD should provide them with sanitation deficiency data obtained from IHS on homes in the grantees' service area--particularly for those homes that are statutorily precluded from receiving IHS-funded sanitation construction services.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

 

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