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Public Statements

Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Home Ownership Act of 2011

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. HEINRICH. Mr. Speaker, shortly after being elected to Congress, I met with some New Mexico tribal leaders who brought to my attention the onerous process for securing a long-term lease on trust land--an unnecessary procedural burden that affects every single home mortgage on Indian land.

We all know how important homeownership is to healthy communities, and the last thing the Federal Government should do is stand in the way of families ready and willing to buy a home. That's why I introduced this bill, the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Home Ownership Act, which we call the HEARTH Act.

Native families buying a house go through the same process as everyone else--they find a house they like, work with their bank to gain approval for a mortgage, and make an offer to the seller. But before these families can close on the sale, they must also get approval from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to lease the land that the house is built on. That approval can take between 6 months and 2 years--an intolerable delay for most buyers.

We all know that a seller is rarely able to wait 2 years to sell their house, and banks are often unable to hold a mortgage approval for anywhere near that long. I know that there are many Native families who would prefer to stay and raise their children in the communities where their families have lived for generations, but instead have had to move from Indian Country to nearby cities because they want to own a home. Families shouldn't be forced to make such an important decision based on how many months, or years, it will take a Federal bureaucracy to approve a mortgage on tribal land.

Similarly, many tribal communities lose out on commercial investment because the process for securing a lease through the BIA takes so long. In these tough economic times, we should not be making it harder for business to develop on tribal land.

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