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LAWTON, Okla. — The affordable student housing provided to tribal members by the Comanche Nation Housing Authority may look familiar. That’s because parents and other family members may have lived in the very same units a generation ago when they went to college.

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Delinquent taxes on Native Americans who become homeowners after using tribal lease-to-own programs are a bigger problem than one might think, according to an Indian Housing Authority (IHA) that wants to spread the word about this challenge.

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The federal government is starting to recognize the financial superiority of tribal groups by seeking to outsource some of its lending programs to Native community development financial institutions.

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A few years back, the Federal Housing Finance Agency gave agencies Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae a “duty to serve” American Indian homeowners on their reservations. 

Judging by the lack of mortgages they have bought to date on trust land, their understanding of that “duty” seems to be a relative concept.

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The dominant culture has long featured a “secondary” mortgage market in which giant agencies buy newly originated mortgages from lenders, giving those lenders additional money to make more mortgages. While this process has helped develop a booming American mortgage market, it’s had trouble taking root in Indian Country. 

However, a new coalition is demonstrating a process that could offer a way forward to help get more Natives into houses across the nation. 

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ISLETA, N.M. — Tiwa Lending Services, a Native community development financial institution, has developed a viable mortgage business from a base on the Isleta Pueblo of New Mexico.

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The Department of Veterans Affairs Native American Direct Loan (NADL) program is seriously out of whack. 

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DOWAGIAC, Mich. — Mno-Bmadsen, the non-gaming investment arm of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, has co-invested in a mixed-use property that aims to play a role in the revitalization of a Southwest Michigan city.

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Tribes that apply for expedited leasing authority can flex their sovereignty to remove bottlenecks that get in the way of tribal members receiving mortgages.

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The first three rounds of funding in the Multifamily Housing Program of the California Department of Housing and Community Development produced goose eggs for tribal programs. 

However, one tribe got funded for $8.5 million in the most recent round, and the next round quadruples funding for Native housing projects.