August 8, 2023

In a significant bipartisan move, the Senate has unanimously approved the Tribal Trust Land Homeownership Act of 2023, aimed at expediting the review and processing of mortgages on tribal lands. Introduced in January by a bipartisan coalition of senators, this legislation is set to revolutionize the mortgage approval process within the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), aligning it with industry standards.

The bill’s primary goal is to streamline the mortgage approval timeline and enhance accountability within the BIA, ultimately encouraging more lenders to participate in offering mortgages across Indian Country. This breakthrough legislation was championed by Republican Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds, alongside Democratic Senators Tina Smith, Jon Tester, and Ben Ray Lujan. By addressing the challenging mortgage approval process faced by Indigenous families, this bill aims to make affordable housing opportunities more accessible on tribal trust land.

Chelsea Fish, executive director at the National American Indian Housing Council, highlighted the importance of equal access to mortgage transactions for Native people: “It is essential that Native people have equal access to mortgage transactions, just like any other citizen in this country. This bill focuses on aligning the processes of the BIA with standard practices in the private mortgage industry.”

Miki Adams, President of CBC Mortgage Agency, emphasized how this legislation can positively impact Indigenous families’ homeownership prospects: “The Tribal Trust Land Homeownership Act is a powerful step toward eliminating the delays many Indigenous families face when buying a home.” The bill’s passage would significantly alleviate challenges in becoming homeowners for Native Americans.

The Mortgage Bankers Association has also shown strong support, noting that the bill will enhance the accessibility of mortgage financing on tribal lands. Bill Killmer, MBA Senior Vice President of Legislative and Political Affairs, explained, “This important legislation will reduce or eliminate [BIA] processing delays, improving access to credit by encouraging more lenders to participate in trust land mortgage lending.”

With the Senate’s resounding approval, the legislation now advances to the House of Representatives, co-sponsored by the co-chairs of the Native American Caucus, Tom Cole (R-OK) and Sharice Davids (D-KS), as well as Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD). This step towards expediting mortgage processes on tribal lands brings the prospect of increased homeownership within reach for Indigenous communities.

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