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Nygren unveils $55 million federal urban assistance program for Diné homeowners

PHOENIX – Urban Navajos who own homes off the Navajo Nation will soon receive some unexpected help they’ll want but didn’t need to ask for.

On Monday, Sept. 11, Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren told 250 Phoenix metro area Navajo homeowners that the Nation received a $55 million federal grant to provide financial assistance to Navajo homeowners under various Homeowner Assistance Fund programs.

This includes mortgage payments and home repair assistance.

He said that as many as 901 Navajo homeowners should qualify for the money for their homes.

The president said that the Homeowner Assistance Fund was authorized through the American Rescue Plan Act to provide $9.9 billion nationwide to support homeowners who face financial hardships associated with COVID-19.

The funds were distributed to states, U.S. territories, and tribes. The Navajo Nation was awarded $55,420,097.

Most federally funded programs are restricted to low- and very-low-income households.

This program also allows higher-income Navajo homeowners to receive financial relief from the economic effects of Covid.

To launch the process, Nygren signed an agreement with Native Community Capital. The group is a Native-led and operated non-profit corporation selected as the sub-recipient to administer the Homeowner Assistance Fund Project activities on behalf of the Navajo Nation.

Native Community Capital is certified by the U.S. Department of the Treasury as a Native Community Development Financial Institution and licensed mortgage lender in Arizona and New Mexico.

The program is designed for both higher-income and medium-income homeowners, Native Community Capital CFO Todd Francis said.

For example, a family of four in Maricopa County in Arizona earning as much as $132,450 a year may be eligible for the tax-free, non-repayable funds to pay their mortgage or repair their homes, he said.

The program will benefit Navajo relatives and their families who reside in rural, remote locations and those in the urban areas of Phoenix, Albuquerque, Denver, Salt Lake City, surrounding smaller cities and towns, and wherever Navajo homeowners live off-reservation, said NCC CEO Dave Castillo.

A significant lack of investment in tribal communities compared to non-Native communities has resulted in a critical absence of homeownership on tribal lands, particularly for higher-income Native households, he said.

As a result, Navajos with higher incomes tend to purchase or build homes off the Navajo Nation, where they can qualify for loans and mortgages to build equity and wealth.

The Center for Indian Country Development reports that 78% of Native people live outside tribal trust land in counties surrounding their homelands. It is these families the HAF Project will seek to support, Castillo said.

Nygren said the Navajo HAF Project will provide financial assistance to 901 eligible Navajo homeowners for qualified expenses in five activities for the next 36 months.

The program will provide financial assistance to eligible Navajo homeowners in the four-state region of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado.

Each eligible applicant could receive a maximum of $125,000 combined assistance under various programs.

These include:

  • Monthly mortgage payment assistance to a maximum assistance level of $72,000 per participant. This is for Navajo homeowners who are delinquent in mortgage payments or at risk of foreclosure due to a loss of household income.
  • Mortgage reinstatement assistance would give maximum assistance of $50,000 per participant to those in active forbearance, delinquency, default status, or risk of losing a home.
  • Mortgage principal reduction assistance would assist up to $100,000 for those who find the fair market value of their home is now less than the price they paid for it and directly may result in a loss when it is sold.
  • Home repair assistance would give $100,000 to those who need significant home repairs.
  • Clear title assistance of up to $30,000 for grants to receive clear title of their primary residence.

In his 2022 presidential campaign, Nygren committed to helping urban Navajos who have said for years that they felt underserved by the tribal government. He said this grant addresses that.

He said one of his administration’s goals is to buy or construct a building owned by the Navajo Nation in the metro area to serve urban Navajo Phoenicians.

Castillo urged applicants to be sure their applications were complete and submitted early.

“One thing we really want to emphasize is to be ready when the information is being requested on the checklist,” he said. “Make sure you have your documents prepared, and you get it to our licensed professionals that will be working with you. If you do not, the application will expire in 30 days.”

He said the program has just three years to deploy the $55 million.

“It seems like we could do that quickly, but we can only do it quickly if you help us, if you’re ready, and if you submit the information that’s necessary,” Castillo added.


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