• 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

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said Wednesday he grudgingly signed an $80 million housing plan — one that calls for building just 15 new homes on the sprawling northern Arizona reservation — because he was told the tribe was in danger of losing federal funds.

Begaye in a telephone interview said he nonetheless extracted a promise from the Navajo Housing Authority: It pledged to build more homes than called for in the plan. The president said he wants up to 500 new homes built during the upcoming year with grant money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The housing authority’s inability to do more with its millions of dollars in annual HUD funds has been a matter of controversy since The Arizona Republic last year published the results of an investigation into the program. It found that since 1998, Washington has given the Navajo Nation more than $1.6 billion to provide new housing. Yet, from 2009 to 2016, records showed, the housing authority built only 543 homes.

On Tuesday, housing authority officials presented Begaye with its Indian Housing Plan, telling him it was the deadline for submitting the annual grant paperwork to HUD. 

“My back was against the wall, but I wanted the money,” Begaye said. “If I had the time, I wouldn’t have signed it.”

Begaye said he was furious that the housing authority sought his approval at the eleventh hour.


$80M Navajo housing grant covers only 30 homes

Navajo housing shortfalls prompt exec’s ouster

His past, blistering public criticism of the Navajo Housing Authority resulted in the ouster last month of former authority Chief Executive Aneva “A.J.” Yazzie. Begaye also has pushed for a new housing authority board.

Begaye said authority interim Chief Executive Roberta Roberts promised him on Tuesday that her agency would amend the plan submitted to HUD to provide for more new homes. But he said she also told him the tribe would lose $80 million without his immediate approval.

In an interview Wednesday, however, HUD spokesman Ed Cabrera told The Republic that while Tuesday was the deadline for tribes to submit paperwork to get housing grants, HUD could have given the housing authority a 90-day extension with no danger of losing federal funds.

“There is waiver authority they can take advantage of,” Cabrera said. 

Roberts was traveling on housing authority business Wednesday and did not return calls seeking comment.

Begaye said if the housing authority used its funds properly, it could meet his goal for building new homes in Tuba City and Fort Defiance, Arizona, and Crownpoint and Shiprock, New Mexico.


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‘I can’t just sit back’

Begaye vowed to appoint an investigative team to find out why the housing authority has built so few homes on the reservation.

“I can’t just sit back. I need to do more than just sign off,” Begaye said. “I want to get to the root of the problem.”

The Navajo housing tragedy

Last week, Roberts defended her agency’s housing plan, which also included building 15 new rental properties. She said the total of 30 new and rental homes were only base projections, and that the numbers could rise.

The plan includes spending federal funds on operation and maintenance of existing homes, youth centers, and planning and administration.

Begaye said the housing authority should allot nearly all of its federal funds to homebuilding, as the tribe is in need of at least 30,000 new homes.

He suggestedthe authority use rent payments from the homes it manages to pay for infrastructure instead of using HUD funds. And, Begaye said, the authority needs to significantly cut its projected $14.4 million in overhead spending for the upcoming year.

“When we use those (federal) dollars for other things rather than building homes, it’s wrong,” he said.

The president said the authority has done such a poor job of building houses that Navajo families are forced to erect storage shelters for homes.

Begaye’s frustration with the Navajo Housing Authority prompted him to dip into tribal funds through his office and seek donations from churches and local chapters to renovate 30 homes.


Another costly Navajo housing project: $447K modular homes

McCain investigation: Navajo housing agency ‘grossly misusing taxpayer funds’

Emergency removal imminent of Navajo housing officials

Navajo leaders seek purge of housing officials

Navajo refurbishments: $1 million per home?

Troubled Navajo housing agency’s board to be replaced


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