Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Pushes For NAHASDA Reauthorization
Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) this morning attended the National American Indian Housing Council Conference and spoke to attendees from Hawai‘i and across the country about reauthorizing the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act of 1996 (NAHASDA).
In the 18 years since its enactment, NAHASDA has strengthened indigenous self-determination by empowering low-income families and households by assisting with their housing needs. This legislation has been twice reauthorized, both times with broad congressional support.
Over 1,400 low-income families in Hawai‘i have benefited from NAHASDA. The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) is the sole recipient of the Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant as provided for by the law. DHHL administers 203,000 acres of trust land; 99% of those lands are located in Hawai‘i’s Second Congressional District: from the southernmost tip of Hawai‘i Island to Kauai and Niihau; it includes every Hawaiian Island, but excludes urban Honolulu.
Last year, Congresswoman Gabbard co-sponsored H.R. 4329, the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Reauthorization Act of 2014. That legislation passed unanimously out of the House of Representatives, but did pass the Senate.
Congressman Takai (HI-01) has joined Congresswoman Gabbard this year in co-sponsoring H.R. 360, the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Reauthorization Act of 2015.
Full text of Rep. Gabbard’s remarks are below:
TULSI GABBARD: Good morning. It’s really wonderful to be here, to be able to share a little bit with you the voice of Hawai‘i and the gratitude of our state for your solidarity and support as each us come together representing our native communities standing, together on this very, very important issue. So on behalf of the 36,000 native Hawaiians who are served by the Hawaiian Home Lands Trust, I can’t express that gratitude in them, especially at this time where this critical piece of legislation continues to be challenged, where every year a fight is mounted. This unity and this solidarity by native people all across the country I think has never been more essential than now.
I want to say thank you to my colleagues who’ve been incredible leaders. You just heard from Congressman Pearce. Congressman Don Young, from Alaska has become a good friend and a strong partner in this. Congressman McCollum who’s here, I think you’ll be hearing from her shortly. There are so many people who have been champions of this effort and continue to fight every single day to make sure that this reauthorization moves forward.
Without this strong bipartisan coalition, this is something that can‘t pass. As Congressmen Pearce just talked about, with a divided Congress, there are very few issues that really gain strong bipartisan support, especially issues that have deep substance and deep impact in a way that transcends a lot of the divides that unfortunately exist here in Washington, but also in different parts of the country. This is one of those issues where there is that potential, and I think it’s rooted in the strong history of NAHASDA. When this legislation first passed, it began and has always been a bipartisan effort. That really impacts real people.
Since 1996, this legislation has twice been authorized, both times with broad congressional support involving leaders in both parties. In the 18 years since its enactment, NAHASDA has strengthened indigenous self-determination by empowering native nations to empower low-income families and really to give them that most sacred gift that’s essential to all of our families and that is a home. I want to talk to a little about Hawai‘i and the 1,400 low-income families there who’ve benefited from these services, in many cases because of the incredible high-cost of living that we have in our state. Where median price of home is $640,000 thousand dollars on Oahu, home ownership would not be possible otherwise. The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, representatives who are here today, is the sole recipient to the native Hawaiian housing block grant as provided for by Title VIII, and they administer 203,000 acres of trust land, 99% percent of these lands are located within my congressional district. From the southernmost tip of Hawaii island to the islands of Kauai and Niihau, so it includes every island in our state but excludes the urban corridor of Honolulu.
There is a family that I spoke about on the House floor whose story touched me, that I want to share with you today and that’s the story of the Nakihei family on the island of Moloka‘i . Brent and Amber Nakihei could not have afforded to remain in the neighborhood where Brent grew up. But they partnered with Moloka‘i Habitat for Humanity and Hawaiian Homes to build a new three-bedroom, one-bath house in 2007. They invested seven hundred hours of work towards construction of that house and their four children will now learn the responsibility of home ownership and have that appreciation from a young age and be able to maintain that culture and that background that their parents have appreciated and are passing on now to this next generation and I think that’s really what this is all about: about preserving and maintaining our culture through our families as they pass this on to the next generation. NAHASDA has helped our department of Hawaiian Homelands to deliver good-quality, single-family homes for less than $300,000. It keeps our families in their homes and brings homeownership within reach for those who are either in the middle class or struggling to break into the middle class. So as we go forward this will continue to be a fight and I want to highlight how important the role is that each of you plays.
For our part in Congress, we will continue to speak up and to continue to share these stories of people within communities all across the country whose lives have literally been changed with this piece of legislation. But I want to highlight how strong and powerful your voices are in this. Your phone calls, your emails, your meetings, your voice on social media bring such a strong and beautiful face to this piece of legislation and the kind historic impact that it has made and that it will continue to make. As with so many other issues that we deal with, the more grassroots support there is for broad cross-sections of our community across the country, the greater chance of support that it gets from Members who may not be as directly connected to these communities as some who you’re hearing form today.
So, thank you for your advocacy and activism on this and for representing so many people who I know can’t be here, but whose voices you carry with you. Thank you very much. Aloha!