March 12, 2024

Warren Announces New Legislation Guaranteeing Housing Funds for Rural Tribal Communities

Tribal Rural Housing Access Act Would Set Aside 5% of Certain USDA Rural Housing Service Funds for Tribal Communities 

Bill Text (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) announced new legislation to expand housing access for rural tribal communities: the Tribal Rural Housing Access Act. The legislation would direct the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to set aside 5% of certain Rural Housing Service (RHS) funds for Tribal Nations, tribally designated housing entities, tribal members, and tribal-owned entities, including Native community development financial institutions. A majority of American Indians and Alaskan Natives live in rural and small-town areas. But a lack of funding to rural Native communities has contributed to severe housing shortages in Indian Country.

“Families in rural Native communities have been hit especially hard by our nation’s housing crisis, facing huge barriers to finding housing and making much-needed repairs,” said Senator Warren. “The federal government has an obligation to ensure federal resources reach Native communities, and my new bill will guarantee rural tribal communities access to the funding they deserve.”

The bill is endorsed by the Native CDFI Network, National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), National American Indian Housing Council, Housing Assistance Council, National Rural Housing Coalition, and National Housing Law Project.

“Housing infrastructure in Indian Country is in desperate need of attention with more than 70 percent of existing housing stock in tribal communities in need of upgrades and repairs, which is why the National Congress of American Indians applauds Senator Warren for introducing the Tribal Rural Housing Access Act today. If enacted and properly funded, the Tribal Rural Housing Access Act will make a meaningful difference for housing in Indian Country and we urge Congress to support and pass this important piece of legislation,” said NCAI Executive Director Larry Wright, Jr.

"We extend our deepest gratitude to Senator Warren for her unwavering dedication to Indian Country and her collaborative approach to developing and introducing the Tribal Rural Housing Access Act. The inclusion of a 5% set-aside for tribes, Native CDFIs, and other Native-led entities across key rural-focused USDA programs represents a pivotal step forward in addressing the housing needs of Native communities. This legislation not only recognizes the unique challenges faced by our communities in accessing affordable, quality housing, but also ensures that federal resources are allocated equitably to support our solutions to address those challenges. This legislation underscores Senator Warren's longstanding commitment to advancing economic empowerment and prosperity across Indian Country, and we look forward to partnering with her to successfully advance it through Congress,” said Pete Upton, CEO of the Native CDFI Network.

"The National American Indian Housing Council is pleased to lend its support to Senator Warren's Tribal Rural Housing Access bill. Guaranteed funding for tribal communities is crucial in both planning and advancing housing in Indian Country,” said Sami Jo Difuntorum, Legislative Committee Chair and Board of Directors Vice Chair of the National American Indian Housing Council.

USDA’s RHS provides resources to local communities to support improving housing and essential community facilities in rural areas. The bill’s set aside applies to the following RHS programs:

  • Section 502: This program provides direct and guaranteed loans for low-income households to purchase and rehabilitate homes.
  • Section 504: This program provides loans and grants to very low-income homeowners to make repairs and improvements to their properties.
  • Sections 514 and 516: These programs provide loans and grants to subsidize housing for domestic farm laborers.
    Section 515: This program provides direct loans to develop and rehabilitate rental housing for low-income individuals and families in rural areas.
  • Section 521(a): This program provides rental assistance to tenants of Section 514 and Section 515 off-farm properties.
  • Section 525: This program provides technical assistance for low-income rural residents to obtain adequate housing.
  • Section 533: This program provides funding to qualified entities to provide housing repair and rehabilitation assistance to low-income homeowners and rental property owners whose tenants are low-income.
  • Section 538: This program provides guaranteed loans to finance the construction, acquisition, and rehabilitation of multifamily housing for low- to moderate-income residents.

Senator Warren has worked to protect and advance tribal sovereignty, to emphasize the federal government’s trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribal Nations, and to affirm Washington’s government-to-government relationship with Tribal Nations:

  • In May 2023, Senator Warren reintroduced the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act (S. 2907), which would establish a commission to formally investigate, document, and acknowledge the Federal Indian Boarding School Policies. In August 2021, she and Congresswoman Sharice Davids (D-Kan.), the House lead for this legislation, sent a letter to the Indian Health Service (IHS), urging the agency to ensure that culturally appropriate supports are in place for those affected by the Indian Boarding School Policies. Senator Warren also led a request that the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hold a hearing on this bill. The Committee did so, and Senator Warren delivered remarks calling for passage of the bill. She originally introduced this bill in 2020 with then-Congresswoman Haaland.
    • In June 2023, the legislation was unanimously reported favorably out of the Indian Affairs Committee. Senator Warren delivered an opening statement at a business meeting of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs which considered her bill, highlighting the need for a truth and healing commission to reckon with the trauma and suffering caused by the federal government’s Indian Boarding School policies
  • In December 2022, Senator Warren and Representative Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) introduced the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act, historic legislation to address chronic underfunding and barriers to sovereignty faced by Indian Country as a result of the federal government’s failures to meet its trust and treaty responsibilities. The legislation would hold the federal government accountable for honoring the country’s legal promises to Native peoples.
  • In April 2021, Senator Warren reintroduced the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act (S. 1368), which invests more than $2.5 billion to build or rehabilitate homes for American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians, and allows tribal housing authorities to administer their own voucher programs. NAIHC adopted a resolution supporting this bill when it was reintroduced in the last Congress. She has long been outspoken about the need to address Indian Country’s housing challenges.
  • Senator Warren fought to ensure that sovereign Tribal Nations have the resources needed to protect the health and well-being of their citizens during this pandemic. She has introduced a number of bills and taken other steps to advance the health and welfare of Native peoples, including:
  • The Department of the Interior launched a process to review and remove derogatory names—including those containing slurs against Native Americans—from federal lands, consistent with Senator Warren’s bill with Representative Al Green, the Reconciliation in Place Names Act (S. 2400).
  • Senator Warren helped push for the establishment of an Office of Tribal and Native Affairs at the Treasury Department. She led a bipartisan group of senators urging Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to establish the Office, echoing longstanding calls from Indian Country. In June 2022, the Treasury Department established a new Office of Tribal and Native Affairs, per Senator Warren’s request.
  • Senator Warren stood with the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in their successful fight to save their reservation in Massachusetts. The Trump administration attempted to disestablish the Tribe’s reservation and litigated the matter. Senator Warren twice cosponsored legislation to provide a fix to the 2009 Supreme Court case Carcieri v. Salazar, so that Tribal Nations’ lands—like those of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe—can be taken into trust and protected. Senator Warren objected to the Trump administration’s efforts, and worked with colleagues and the Tribe to fight the disestablishment. Senator Warren joined then-Congresswoman Haaland in filing a bicameral, bipartisan amicus brief opposing the disestablishment. The Biden administration withdrew the Trump-era legal challenges, preserving the trust status of the Tribe’s homeland and ending the legal challenges it had faced from the executive branch. Last December, the Department of the Interior conclusively reaffirmed the trust status of the Tribe’s reservation, thus securing its future.
  • Senator Warren has been a leader in the push to rescind the Medals of Honor awarded to U.S. soldiers who perpetrated the Wounded Knee Massacre. She has twice introduced the Remove the Stain Act (S. 1073), pushed for the bill’s inclusion in the National Defense Authorization Act, and urged President Biden to use his executive authority to rescind the medals.
  • Senator Warren has pushed to expand Tribal connectivity. She introduced the DIGITAL Reservations Act (S. 4331, 116th Congress) to affirm Tribal Nations’ and Native Hawaiian organizations’ ownership of broadband spectrum over their lands. And she twice introduced the Extending Tribal Broadband Priority Act (S. 1365), to extend the Federal Communication Commission’s 2.5 GHz Tribal Priority Window.
  • Senator Warren has worked for Tribal sovereignty on cannabis, including twice introducing the bipartisan STATES Act, which would keep states, territories, and Tribal Nations safe from federal overreach when deciding the best approach to marijuana.
  • Senator Warren has been outspoken in her support of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). She was an original cosponsor of a resolution marking the 40th Anniversary of ICWA, and has joined two amicus briefs in support of the law.
  • For years, Senator Warren has fought back against threats to Tribal lands and waters. She joined efforts to resist the Trump administration’s assaults on Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. And she applauded the Biden administration’s decision to reinstate protections for the monuments. Senator Warren also opposed efforts to advance the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, Line 3, and other pipelines. She joined two amicus briefs to support Tribal Nations’ efforts to halt operation of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). And she questioned Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works nominee Michael Connor regarding the DAPL and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ relationship with Tribal Nations during his confirmation hearing.