Secretary Ben Carson of the Department of Housing and Urban Development speaks at the United Native American Housing Association summer meeting in Polson, Montana, on August 21, 2017. Photo: HUD

Housing Secretary Ben Carson addresses tribal housing conference in Montana

The new leader of the Department of Housing and Urban Development addressed the United Native American Housing Association in Montana on Monday.

Secretary Ben Carson spoke of the federal government's obligation to provide housing in Indian Country, according to news reports and posts on his Twitter account. He said the best solutions to problems tend to come from communities themselves.

"The Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act has helped to provide more and better housing for the last 20 yrs," one of the posts on Twitter stated.

According to Indian Country Media Network, which previewed his speech on Monday, Carson said he supports reauthorization of the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act. The law was renewed in 2002 and in 2008 before expiring in September 2013.

Since then, Congress has been unable to renew the law amid disagreements in Indian Country on certain provisions. But Republican lawmakers also have held up the bill by questioning the legality of Native Hawaiian housing programs.

The Trump administration has not taken an official stance on the issue and news reports did not say whether Carson discussed it. When Heidi Frechette, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Native American Programs, was asked about it at a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing in June, she said she was unable to offer a policy position.

"I'm career staff at HUD so I don't comment on what vehicle is appropriate," Frechette said on June 13. She was hired for the position in May 2016.

The person who would be able to offer a policy position is the Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing. President Donald Trump, though, has failed to nominate someone for the job, eight months into his administration.

Frechette, during her testimony, offered general support for S.1275, the Building Useful Initiatives for Indian Land Development Act or BUILD Act, which excludes Native Hawaiians. The National Congress of American Indians, the largest inter-tribal organization, doesn't agree with the approach.

"The exclusion of the Native Hawaiian housing programs sets a harmful precedent for federal programs serving American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians," Liana Onnen, a vice president of NCAI and the chair of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation.

The United Native American Housing Association's meeting was hosted by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes . Carson was supposed to meet with tribal leaders and tour tribal housing sites on the reservation on Tuesday but left early that morning to attend Trump's rally in Arizona, The Char-Koosta News reported.

But photos posted on Twitter and on HUD's Flickr page show Carson was able to meet with the tribal council and with residents of the Salish Transitional Living Center before he left Montana. Photos show him with Chairman Vernon Finley and with Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana), who serves on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Montana), a new member of Congress.

Read More on the Story:
HUD Secretary Ben Carson addresses tribal housing confab (The Char-Koosta News August 24, 2017)
Carson sees ‘moral duty’ to give Native Americans a chance at prosperity (The Lake County Leader August 24, 2017)
Carson speaks at UNAHA (The Lake County Leader August 24, 2017)
Native to America (DSNews August 23, 2017)
HUD's Carson calls for unity in talk with Native American Housing Association (The Missoulian August 21, 2017)
HUD Secretary Wants Consultation with Tribes on Indian Housing (Indian Country Media Network August 21, 2017)

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