NNWO: NHA needs its own set of rules

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NNWO: NHA needs its own set of rules 

By Cindy Yurth
Tséyi' Bureau

WASHINGTON - When it comes to spending the money allocated to it by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Navajo Housing Authority is at a disadvantage compared to the other tribally designated housing entities, according to Clara Pratte, director of the Navajo Nation's Washington Office.

The NHA has come under fire both on the Navajo Nation and in Washington for sitting on nearly $400 million dollars in government funds, but "there are some legitimate reasons" why the entity can't spend money as fast as Washington gives it away, Pratte said.

Among tribal housing entities, "NHA is extremely unique," Pratte said. "Because of its size, it's more like a huge urban housing entity, like Chicago. It really doesn't fit with the guidelines set by NAHASDA (the Native American Housing and Self-Determination Act)."

In addition to its large population and huge need for housing, the Diné are different from other tribes in that they are divided into local government units - the chapters.

"Any time the NHA plans a development, the chapter has to withdraw land for it," Pratte said. The chapter, in turn, has to get the buy-in of the local grazing permit holders, who are understandably not anxious to turn over their grazing rights to house people they may not even know.

Then there's the cumbersome bidding process and the endless line of people that have to sign off on any project, known locally as "SAS" (signatures authorization sheets).

While the Navajo Nation Council's Resources and Development Committee is trying to create an entity to replace NHA as the TDHE, Pratte said she doesn't see a government entity working any faster than the NHA.

"They'll still have to go through the same procedures," she said.

Meanwhile, the NNWO is lobbying for reauthorization of NAHASDA, including Navajo's allocation, and it does not help that two tribal entities are vying to be the designee of the grant.

"It's only natural that it (the infighting) plays into the thought process here," she said. "People read the papers."

Pratte said the office is stressing the huge need for housing turned up by NHA'S recent needs assessment, and downplaying the conflict.

"We try to educate people on why these debates are happening internally," she said, "but what we want them to look at is the number of Navajos who need housing."

Contact Cindy Yurth at cyurth@navajotimes.com.