U.S. District Court judge says HUD improperly used his decision to freeze Native grants

Posted: Thursday, August 03, 2006

FAIRBANKS - A judge has lifted a funding freeze that had blocked Indian housing authorities, including some in Alaska, from receiving federal grants.

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The money stream had been halted by the Department of Housing and Urban Development after a May court decision involving a Montana Indian housing authority.

The Kodiak Island Housing Authority has received its yearly $4 million block grant.

The judge in the Montana case wrote HUD in late June, telling the agency it improperly used his decision to freeze Indian housing block grants across the nation.

The case involved the housing authority on the Fort Peck reservation. It was not a class action and other tribes had no chance to give their input, said U.S. District Court Judge Richard Matsch.

The judge ordered HUD to limit its response to his decision to actions that would only affect Fort Peck.

The agency had frozen about $300 million of the governments $620 million in yearly housing block grants to tribes. It did so in response to the May 25 decision by Matsch that the law requires the government to provide money to Fort Peck based, in part, on the number of housing units its housing authority had in 1997 as opposed to currently.

If applied to all tribes, the interpretation would force a significant reallocation of Indian housing money, the agency said in a letter informing tribes of the freeze in June.

The action had no immediate effect on the Fairbanks-based Interior Regional Housing Authority, which handles housing for 28 tribes.

Other Interior region tribes receiving grants included Fort Yukon, which received about $532,000 and Tanana, which received about $270,000.

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