• Navajo housing review by HUD

    Navajo housing review by HUD

  • 90 new homes in Shiprock torn down

    90 new homes in Shiprock torn down

  • Navajo housing funds pile up, are squandered

    Navajo housing funds pile up, are squandered

  • Former NHA chief: Not bribery, just helping a friend

    Former NHA chief: Not bribery, just helping a friend

  • How the Cherokee Nation spends its federal housing funds

    How the Cherokee Nation spends its federal housing funds

Arizona Republic reporters Craig Harris and Dennis Wagner and photographer Michael Chow have received the Society of Professional Journalists’ New America Award for their coverage of the Navajo Nation’s housing crisis.

The New America Award honors coverage focused on immigrant or ethnic communities in the United .

Their series, “To Build a Home: The Navajo Housing Tragedy,” was published in late 2016 and shed light on nearly two decades of mismanagement of federal housing funds by the tribal housing authority. The northern Arizona reservation’s dire housing needs remain largely unmet.

“The team that shed the light on the Navajo housing system was driven by knowing tens of thousands of families live in poverty and substandard housing,” said Nicole Carroll, editor and vice president/news at The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com. “The tragedy here isn’t just that people are suffering, but that their suffering is needless. Hundreds of millions of dollars meant to help them haven’t – yet. We’re humbled to win this award and hope our team’s work can continue to help serve others.”


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The newspaper’s investigation discovered the Navajo Nation had received $1.66 billion in federal funding since 1998, but more than $100 million of that was spent on failed housing projects while the housing authority at one point accrued a funding surplus of nearly a quarter billion dollars. 

Meanwhile, an estimated 34,000 homes needed to be built to address the housing shortage, but only 543 homes were built over eight years. 

The Navajo housing tragedy

“In journalism, we are often taught to ‘follow the money,’ but when it comes to the Navajo housing tragedy this trail can lead to nowhere,” the judges’ comments said. “This important series shows how journalism has a direct impact on the citizenry it serves and how it can bring about direct change.”

Since the series was published, tribal leaders have moved to replace the housing agency’s board of commissioners and some agency officials.

Two weeks ago, U.S. Sen. John McCain released an investigative report in conjunction with the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. It confirmed most of The Republic‘s findings and called for sweeping reforms to protect federal funds and provide adequate homes for tribal members. 

Harris, Wagner and Chow will be honored Sept. 9 during SPJ’s 2017 Excellence in Journalism Conference in Anaheim, California.


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Navajo president to remove housing officials

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Navajos recount housing agency’s disappointments

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