Native Americans Slowly Acquiring FEMA Homes

New America Media reports that some of the Federal Emergency Management Agency factory-built housing originally designated for Hurricane Katrina relief is now slowly making its way onto American tribal lands.  Estimates range from 90,000 to 200,000 for housing units needed to replace inadequate housing on the 565 tribal lands across the U.S.  The federal government holds the lands in trust, and is therefore responsible for all housing, which is 40 percent inadequate, as opposed to six percent nationwide.  Following Hurricane Katrina, FEMA purchased 144,000 factory-built units, but the agency’s own rules prevented the use of them in flood zones.  Between 2005 and 2009, 110 tribes had requested 5,500 housing units, 1,300 of which were delivered 2007-2009.  Many were not made for northern climates and suffered burst water pipes and high electric heating bills.  Senator Tim Johnson, (D-S.D.), had seen thousands unused, and sponsored legislation to give surplus units to the tribes.  Banks typically will not make mortgage loans on land not owned by the borrower.  A borrower can lease the land, but the U.S. Secretary of the Interior must approve each lease, a process that may require up to two years.  Mellor Willie, a Navajo who is executive director of the National American Indian Housing Council, said, “The American government and American people take a blind eye to the nation’s first Americans.”


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