Legislation sponsored by U.S. Representative Martin Heinrich (NM-1) to remove barriers between Native American families and homeownership was signed into law today by President Obama during an Oval Office ceremony at the White House. The Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership (HEARTH) Act, allows tribes to exercise greater control over their lands and eliminate bureaucratic delays that stand in the way of homeownership and economic development in tribal communities.
"Now that it's law, the HEARTH Act will create needed New Mexico jobs, boost investment in our housing industries and bring much needed housing and businesses to Indian Country," said Rep. Heinrich. "Tribal communities should be able to make their own decisions about how to use their own land, and the HEARTH Act will give them the freedom to do so. The last thing the federal government should do is stand in the way of a family who wants to buy a home, and this bill will help make it easier for Native families to buy and build houses in the communities where their families have lived for generations."
First introduced by Rep. Heinrich in 2009, the HEARTH Act will expedite the surface lease approval process by allowing tribal governments to approve trust land leases directly, rather than waiting for approval from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The HEARTH Act will remove existing bureaucratic obstacles and delays prospective Native American home buyers encounter when seeking approval from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to buy a home on tribal land.
The bill would also help jumpstart economic development in Native communities by making it easier for businesses to lease land from tribes. Under current rules, companies often have to wait years for BIA approval of a lease, leading many businesses to choose to locate elsewhere where they can buy or lease a site in a matter of weeks.