The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development visits the Navajo Housing Authority to determine if federal housing funds have been properly spent on the Arizona reservation.
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The Navajo Housing Authority spent nearly $12 million to build 91 new homes. All but one later were torn down, prompting a financial settlement with federal housing officials. Michael Chow/azcentral.com
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Federal housing funds for Navajos pile up and are squandered while residents of the reservation still suffer from inadequate shelter. Michael Chow/azcentral.com
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Former Navajo Housing Authority head Chester Carl, who was acquitted of bribery and conspiracy charges, talks about the allegations. Michael Chow/azcentral.com
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Members of Oklahoma’s Cherokee Nation say the tribal housing authority pays careful attention to the housing needs of its citizens. Michael Chow/azcentral.com
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Navajo housing review by HUD
90 new homes in Shiprock torn down
Navajo housing funds pile up, are squandered
Former NHA chief: Not bribery, just helping a friend
How the Cherokee Nation spends its federal housing funds
A Navajo Housing Authority plan submitted to federal regulators shows it will build just 15 new homes and an equal number of rental properties next fiscal year with a new housing grant of nearly $80 million, records show.
The NHA and tribal officials have said there is a need for at least 30,000 homes on the sprawling reservation that covers much of northern Arizona. However, The Arizona Republic over the past six months has documented failures by the agency to build sufficient housing despite landing hundreds of millions of dollars in grants for that purpose.
Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and U.S. Sen. John McCain recently criticized the NHA for its lack of homebuilding despite being the largest U.S. recipient of federal dollars for tribal housing needs.
Interim CEO: Construction figures could rise
The NHA construction proposal for 2017-18 is laid out in its Indian Housing Plan, an annual report that must be submitted to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This year’s must be submitted by Tuesday in order to receive $79.8 million in federal grant money.
Roberta Roberts, the NHA interim chief executive, said the figures reported to HUD for new construction of homes and rentals are only base projections. The numbers could rise, she said, adding that the NHA this year completed 45 new homes and 86 rental units. Those units were paid for by previous grants.
Roberts also said the NHA could build more homes if it received additional assistance from Navajo Nation chapters (local governments).
Roberts recently took over from longtime CEO Aneva “A.J.” Yazzie, who stepped down at the end of June amid scathing criticism from Begaye.
The NHA 2017-18 plan includes spending:
- A total of $94 million, with most of that coming from the new HUD grant and the balance drawn from prior grant funds that remain unspent.
- At least $23.6 million for operations and maintenance of at least 5,855 previously built housing units.
- $11.2 million for at least 15 new rental units, as well as planning and construction of 45 other new units that will be carried into 2019-2020.
- $8.1 million to build at least 15 new homes, plan for 25 additional houses and finish 25 homes carried over from 2017.
- $6.5 million to build two youth centers and to plan for 144 college housing units, an NHA office in Tuba City, and upgrades to 15 NHA management offices across the reservation.
- Nearly $14.4 million on general planning and administration.’
‘Very disappointing’ plan
Chester Carl, a former Housing Authority CEO, left in 2006. But he remains involved in housing issues on the reservation and keeps close tabs on the NHA’s budget and housing plan.
Carl on Friday called the NHA’s housing plan “very disappointing.” He argued the number of new homes and rentals could easily be increased from 30 to 205 across the reservation by investing more federal dollars into construction projects and less on others.
Carl, currently a cattle rancher, also said that while the NHA is spending a lot of money on renovations, the plan doesn’t address the roughly 800 units boarded up across the reservation that are not being used.
“My concern is the needs of the people. When I was there, we were building a lot of homes,” Carl said.
Carl added that although the new, three-person NHA board and a Navajo Nation committee have approved the plan, Begaye still could veto it.
Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez issued a statement last month highly critical of the NHA.
The leaders said there was “no justification in NHA starting less than 100 homes per year.”
Nez last month also said the NHA could “renovate all you want, but that doesn’t give homes to families in need.”
The president’s office did not respond Friday to calls and an email seeking comment.
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