On January 2, 2015, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) published in the FEDERAL REGISTER proposed amendments to the Housing Improvement Program (HIP), a safety-net program that provides grants for eligible members (generally very low-income persons) of federally recognized Indian tribes. BIA states that the proposed changes are aimed at aligning HIP with other federal program requirements, increasing the number of families served and projects funded, and providing tribes with more flexibility to address lengthy waiting lists of tribal members awaiting housing assistance. Comments are due by March 6, 2015. Consultation sessions will be held in February of 2015, details on p.2.
Categories of Assistance and Funding Limits. HIP currently provides funding to four categories of housing needs: (1) repair of existing homes; (2) renovation of existing homes; (3) construction of replacement homes; and (4) new housing. Each category has a monetary limit on the amount of funding a recipient may receive. The proposed rule would update categories (1) and (2) to increase the monetary limit to better reflect the actual costs of repair and renovation.
Ranking Factors. The BIA distributes HIP funding based on a priority ranking derived from a point system to identify those individuals and families residing in the tribe’s service area most in need of housing assistance. These factors are: annual household income, age, disability, and family size. Currently, priority ranking is based on total numeric value (points) received under four ranking factors. Each ranking factor is assigned a certain number of points and thus each applicant receives a certain number of points under each of the ranking factors. The proposed rule would update those ranking factors to provide tribes with additional flexibility as well as add the following new ranking factors: homelessness, overcrowding, and dilapidated housing.
Square-Footage Limits. The proposed rule would also increase square-footage limits to allow Americans with Disabilities Act requirements to be met, when applicable, and clarify when the requirements apply.
Other Changes. The proposed rule would also make the following changes:
• Payback Agreements. Currently, a recipient may be required to enter a “payback agreement” which provides that the recipient will have to pay back the entire amount or a portion of funding received if the recipient sells the home within a certain period of time. However, if the payback period expires, no payback is required and the money is considered a grant. The proposed rule would change the payback period for renovation of existing homes from five years to 10 years.
• Four-Year Application Period. Currently, an application expires after one year, requiring an applicant who does not receive assistance under the HIP to reapply annually until assistance is received. The proposed rule would increase the time for consideration of an application to four years.
• Land Ownership Requirements. Currently, HIP funding applicants must provide proof of land ownership before the grant award. The proposed rule would eliminate this requirement and allow the applicant to provide proof of a homesite lease or proof that the applicant can obtain the land by lease.
• Down Payment Assistance. The proposed changes would allow down-payment assistance for families who can obtain a mortgage loan from other federal programs.
• More Efficient Implementation. The proposed rule would make other revisions to update the regulations to address past implementation issues and better reflect current housing needs including allowing for HIP assistance to families with very low income (rather than only families with extremely low income) and allowing tribes to better address the large waiting lists they are experiencing.
Tribal Consultation Dates and Locations.
• February 4, 2015, 1-5 PM, at the National American Indian Housing Council legislative conference, at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel, 1127 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC.
• February 11, 2015, 1-5 PM, at the Frontier Building, 3601 C Street, Room 896, Anchorage, AK.
• February 18, 2015, by teleconference (time and phone number TBA).
• February 22, 2015, prior to the National Congress of American Indian Executive Council Winter Session, Capital Hilton, 1001 16th Street NW, Washington, DC.
Further details will be posted at the following web site when they become available: http://www.bia.gov/WhoWeAre/AS-IA/ORM/HIP/index.htm
Please let us know if we may provide additional information regarding BIA’s proposed amendments to HIP or assistance in preparing comments. A copy of the FEDERAL REGISTER notice, which provides additional details on submitting comments, is here: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-01-02/pdf/2014-30692.pdf