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Real Estate

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It’s hard to forget a name like Courage. 

I met Courage Todachine a quarter of a century ago when I visited one of the first homes on the Navajo Nation to receive a mortgage from a private lender. It was a big, sturdy house on the side of a hill in Fort Defiance, Ariz., not far from the Navajo capital of Window Rock. The house was notable for being the only one on that hill — the only house for a half mile, in fact. 

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An extensive new rule for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s section 184 American Indian guaranteed mortgage that’s designed to make lenders more comfortable using it also includes an outreach to Native community development financial institutions.

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After many years of stagnant funding that’s caused buying power to diminish because of inflation, federal Native American housing allocations have increased in the past couple of years. 

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Indian Country has struggled for years to develop housing that meets the needs of its citizens. Now, as more tribes around the country are developing economies based on a diversified portfolio of businesses, they’re finding it’s just as hard to build-out workforce housing for the people who they employ in tribal enterprises. 

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Two Native community development financial institutions in South Dakota will get a second bite of the apple with a $4 million disbursement to target Indigenous communities for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s underused Section 502 mortgage program.

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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.