WASHINGTON, D.C.(Press Release) — U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) today issued the following statement after the Senate unanimously passed their Tribal Trust Land Homeownership Act, bipartisan legislation that would accelerate the review and processing of mortgages on trust land by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).
“Affordable housing opportunities on tribal trust land can be hard to come by in South Dakota and across the nation due in part to the BIA’s challenging mortgage approval process, which can complicate lenders’ ability to provide financing to prospective homebuyers and participate in federal tribal housing programs,” said the senators. “Our bipartisan legislation would expedite this mortgage approval process, hold the BIA accountable, and encourage more lenders to provide mortgages across Indian Country. This would expand tribal members’ access to homeownership. We applaud the Senate’s passage of our bill, and we hope the House of Representatives considers it in short order.”
“It is essential that Native people have equal access to mortgage transactions, just like any other citizen in this country,” said Chelsea Fish, executive director at the National American Indian Housing Council. “This bill focuses on aligning the processes of the BIA with standard practices in the private mortgage industry. We commend legislators for prioritizing mortgage processes within the BIA and promoting a culture of accountability.”
“Mortgage Banker Association (MBA) applauds the Senate passage of the Tribal Trust Land Homeownership Act of 2023,” said Bill Killmer, senior vice president of legislative and political affairs at MBA. “This important legislation will reduce or eliminate BIA processing delays, thereby improving access to credit by encouraging more lenders to participate in trust land mortgage lending. We commend Senators Thune, Smith, Rounds, and Tester for reintroducing this bipartisan bill during this Congress and for their work in helping it pass by unanimous consent.”
The Tribal Trust Land Homeownership Act would create statutory timelines in which the BIA would be required to process mortgages involving property located on tribal trust land. Additionally, it would enhance the ability of certain federal agencies to operate their tribal housing programs and improve communication between the BIA and tribes, tribal members, and lenders through the establishment of a realty ombudsman within the BIA who can communicate with relevant parties.
Thune and Rounds introduced the bipartisan legislation earlier this year with U.S. Sens. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.).