The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Housing Program benefits American Indian and Alaskan Natives by helping them gain access to one of the most fundamental human rights: a decent and sanitary home for themselves and their families. It aims to eliminate substandard housing and homelessness in Indian communities.
What Is the Housing Improvement Program?
The Housing Improvement Program (HIP) grants financial support to qualified American Indians and Alaskan Natives (AI/AN) in need of funds for new housing, home repair, or renovation.
The program prioritizes individuals and families who have no immediate resources for standard housing.
The Snyder Act of 1921 put the HIP into place as a safety-net program to help with the housing needs of eligible members from federally-recognized Indian tribes.
Individuals and families with extremely low incomes are given priority and ranked with higher points to qualify for grants to help with the cost of repairs, renovations, or replacing existing housing — plus these grants could possibly provide new housing.
What Are the HIP Benefits?
The HIP provides funding for five categories of housing needs:
Category A: Minor Repairs
These are for interim improvements that allocate as much as $7,500 for housing repairs.
If your home condition threatens the health and safety of the occupants, this is the category you may apply for.
Roof and leak repairs, broken windows and damaged doors, electrical wiring issues, and other repair needs may fall in this category.
This amount will cover repairs that would ultimately improve the health of impoverished families by addressing basic housing needs.
Category B: Major Repairs and Renovations
If a house needs major repairs and renovations that are required to meet applicable building code standards, you may apply for this category to receive a grant of up to $60,000.
This category may be for homes that need structural repairs in order for it to be at par with housing standards.
These repairs and renovations are imperative in order for the house to meet minimal standards to protect the health and safety of the occupant, provide protection from tragedy caused by fire, prevent structural collapse, and general deterioration.
Category C1: Replacement Housing
If the applicant’s home cannot be renovated and brought up to building code standards within the $60,000 fund from a Category B grant, replacement housing may be applied for.
The term replacement housing refers to the replacement of existing, solely-owned, occupied housing where repair and rehabilitation assistance is no longer financially feasible or practical.
Category C2: New Housing
This category is applicable for people who don’t own a home. They may be provided a modest new home if they own land suitable for housing or hold a lease of more than 25 years to a property that is appropriate for building a residential unit.
A modest home is neither large nor expensive, but enough to be a safe dwelling for a family, and it follows building code standards.
Category D: Down Payment Assistance
Individuals and families who cannot afford the full cost of a home loan may be awarded a one-time grant of up to 15% of the contract sale price — or maximized at $20,000, and $75,000 in Alaska.
The eligibility is dependent on the ownership of residential land or a lease. This will promote home ownership of working class families who do not have the financial means to come up with a down payment.
To be eligible for HIP assistance, the applicant must be a member of an American Indian tribe that is federally recognized or be an Alaskan native. Other qualifications must be met for HIP eligibility.
- The applicant should reside in a tribal service area. An approved tribal service area is a geographical area chosen by a tribe and approved by BIA. It is a designated area where HIP services can be delivered. HIP funding applicants must provide proof of land ownership, proof of a homesite lease, or proof that the applicant can obtain the land by lease for at least 25 years.
- The applicant must have an income that does not exceed 150% of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services poverty guidelines. There are two charts on income guidelines you may refer to — one for Alaska and one for the lower states.
- You must have existing housing that is substandard. The State Housing Laws define substandard housing as any condition which exists to an extent that it endangers the life, limb, property, safety or welfare of the occupants or general public. Examples of substandard housing are:
- Fire hazards
- Structural hazards
- Fault weather protection
- Inappropriate ventilation
- Lack of water
- Lack of heating
- Inadequate sanitation
- The presence of insects or vermin
- You must have no other resource for housing assistance. You qualify to apply for HIP if you have no other options for housing resources or housing assistance.
- It is important to note as well that an applicant may be disqualified if their existing housing was acquired through a federally sponsored housing program.
Remember that once you have received assistance of Category B, C, or D, you are no longer eligible for HIP assistance ever again.
Other Housing Resources for Native Americans
There are other federal programs that may provide housing assistance to Native Americans. You may want to read more about these programs and learn which is most suited for your needs.
Indian Housing’s Office of Native American Programs (ONAP)
This is run by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) which administers housing and community development programs that benefit American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments.
Tribal Green Building
This organization funds resources from federal, tribal, and state agencies for tribal green building. They provide grants and loans that are used to support tribal green building.
Indian Housing Grant Programs
This is an annual grant from the HUD that allocates funding for a spectrum of affordable housing activities of tribally designated housing entities (TDHEs).
These activities may be housing development, housing services, and programs that give Native Americans affordable housing options.
Indian Home Loan Guarantee Program
The Indian Home Loan Guarantee Program is powered by the HUD and provides financing on fixed-rate and for longer and easier payment terms.
The maximum loanable amount is 50% more than the lending limits of the Federal Housing Authority in the area.
Indian Community Development Block Grant Program
The Indian Community Development Block Grant awards grants for sustainable development of AI/AN communities.
These could be in the form of decent housing or economic opportunities for low-income members of the community.
Direct Home Loans for Native Americans
This is a direct loan specifically for Native American Veterans, or non Native Americans married to non-veterans who are looking to buy or build a home on Federal Trust land.
The HIP specifically targets a population in dire need of support, who have no other options for improving their living conditions.
This is a much-needed program that greatly impacts the lives of people. Poor living conditions negatively affect physical and mental health.
It not only affects individual families and detached homes — but also the whole community.
When rent takes up close to 50% of a family’s income, other necessities are forsaken such as utility bills, transportation, education, food, medical, and health needs.
Once they are given access to housing programs, they are able to extend their budget and have more to spend on other basic needs.
When their buying power is increased, they contribute to the growth of the community’s local businesses which, in turn, create a better income flow for more individuals.
This is a classic case of trickle-up economy which improves the lives of people in whole communities.
Arm the people with their basic needs — housing — and they will be able to slowly get out of poverty and seek to improve their quality of living.
If you are a Native American in need of help in securing a decent home for your family, and you qualify for HIP assistance, connect with your local tribal or BIA Regional Housing office.