WASHINGTON — Comanche Nation Housing Authority’s Executive Director Russell Sossamon testified before Congress last month to address the housing issues that face Native Americans in Southwest Oklahoma.
Sossamon provided direct dialogue to Congressman Tom Cole, drawing attention to the Indian Community Development Block Grant’s scoring and funding regulations, according to a press release from the tribe.
The hearing presented six invited tribal representatives with the opportunity to give testimonies centered on tribal concerns. Sossamon was invited as a non-governmental witness during the committee hearing, which focused on transportation and housing domains. It was the first hearing of its kind by this congressional committee to hear tribal perspectives for these areas.
The hearing, which serves as a component of the budget process for the House of Representatives, allowed for the Comanche Nation Housing Authority to engage in direct and substantive discussions with the members of Congress responsible for funding Native American programs.
“Testifying to a congressional committee is an honor afforded to few Americans. Sossamon’s representation of CNHA at the national level solidified our position,” Nora Sovo, deputy director of Comanche Nation Housing Authority, said in a statement. “Sossaman’s nearly 30 years of knowledge and experience in our industry make him one of our most trusted representatives.”
Sossaman dedicated his attention to the formulation of the Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG) and the IHBG Competitive and their current level of funding and scoring processes. The IHBG Competitive is a highly sought-after program that provides adequate housing and suitable living environments for tribal members, according to the press release.
The funding that supports the program is limited, restricting its ability to service all of those in need. The program’s scoring works in favor of construction instead of acquisition. Constructing new properties takes much longer than acquiring existing properties, which delays the ability to provide more homes to tribal members, according to the press release.
Sossamon testified in favor of increasing the funds that are allocated to the IHBG programs and amending the scoring processes for the IHBG Competitive to allow equal preference for acquisitions. More funding and acquiring properties would allow CNHA and other housing authorities to increase its efforts and improve living conditions for more tribal members in a timely matter.
“Since the grant favors construction, CNHA often must operate on Fee Simple Land as Trust Land is often in rural areas far from amenities, jobs and resources,” said Sovo. “This is more costly and time consuming. If the grant showed equal preference to acquisitions, tribal members could select an existing home in the area of their choosing, increasing our ability to place tribal members in safe housing.”
During his address, Sossamon also highlighted the cultural norms of Native American families that demonstrate the grant’s impact. “It is customary for Native families to reside with their extended families, including parents or grandparents. This practice reduces the burden on nursing care, and consequently, on the need for federal subsidies. It is crucial to view this grant as an investment, which will yield significant returns in the long run.”
For more information about Comanche Nation Housing Authority, visit www.comanchehousing.com.
The Comanche Nation Housing Authority (CNHA) provides rental and housing assistance to low-income and other enrolled members of the Comanche Nation through a number of its service programs, including the down payment and closing cost grant, Elder home rehabilitation program, rental program, student housing program, homeownership lease purchase program and CNHA emergency home repair program (HIP). CNHA operates in seven counties – Caddo, Comanche, Cotton, Kiowa, Tillman for federal grant programs and in Stephens and Grady for additional services that include the Elder and HIP programs. For more information about program requirements and low-income guidelines, call 580-357-4956 or visit www.comanchehousing.com.