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Rounds introduces bill aimed at Native veteran home ownership

The National Native American Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Alan Karchmer
National Native American Veterans Memorial
The National Native American Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. opened in November 2020.

South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds wants to reform a program designed to help Native veterans buy, maintain and upgrade homes.

Rounds introduced legislation last week that would make changes to the Native American Direct Loan program. The program was established in 1992 to help Native veterans finance homes on some tribal lands where traditional mortgages are difficult to obtain.

Rounds said it hasn’t done enough to help Native veterans overcome those challenges.

“Despite the availability of these loans, various Native American advocacy groups have identified the NADL as an underperforming program that has a long, complex, application process and makes very few loans to qualified borrowers,” Rounds said, noting that the program has granted loans to less than 1% of eligible Native veterans.

Rounds wants to make it easier for existing mortgages to be refinanced under the program. His bill would also require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide grants to organizations that provide loan counseling and education for Native homebuyers.

“Homeownership is part of the American dream and a key to building wealth,” Rounds said in a press release. “By creating expanded access to Native American veterans, our bill would help make the dream of homeownership a reality.”

Rounds directed Congress’s Government Accountability Office to review the Direct Loan program in 2020. The office found “multiple weaknesses in the planning, conduct, and review of [the] NADL program.” It discovered that the VA didn't collect basic data about the program's performance and hadn’t developed written agreements about the program with most tribal governments.

A VA official expressed some objections to the bill in committee testimony, but indicated the department would support the legislation with amendments.

Slater Dixon is a junior at Augustana University studying Government and Data Science. He was born in Sioux Falls and is based out of SDPB's Sioux Falls studio.
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