Johnson Introduces Bill to Encourage Property, Home Purchases in Indian Country

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Washington, D.C. – RealEstateRama – U.S. Representative Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) introduced the Tribal Trust Homeownership Act to streamline the approval process for mortgages involving property on tribal trust land.

“Housing availability is lacking across the country,” said Johnson. “It’s no different on tribal lands. Without proper timelines or accountability, the BIA is creating a longer and more difficult process for those trying to purchase tribal trust land. This bill advocates for purchasers and lenders, bringing accountability to the BIA.”

“The Mortgage Bankers Association commends Congressman Johnson for taking action to improve and encourage access to quality affordable housing on trust land,” said Bill Killmer, Senior Vice President of Legislation and Political Affairs at MBA. “Specifically, this legislation will reduce or eliminate BIA processing delays, thereby encouraging more lenders to participate in trust land mortgage lending.”

Currently, in order to be finalized, mortgages involving property on tribal trust land must be reviewed and approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The BIA Mortgage Handbook establishes timelines for BIA offices to process and approve these mortgages. However, these timelines are not always adhered to.

The Tribal Trust Land Homeownership Act would:

  • Seek to cut through BIA red tape and provide timely processing of mortgages.
  • Create statutory timelines in which the BIA would be required to process and approve mortgages involving property located on tribal trust land.
  • Require the BIA to notify lenders upon receipt of such documentation and perform a preliminary review of such documents not later than 10 days after receipt and approve or disapprove of such documents within 20 or 30 days, depending on the type of application.
  • Require the BIA to notify the lender once the proposed residential leasehold mortgage, business leasehold mortgage, or right-of-way document has been received.
  • 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.

The Tribal Trust Land Homeownership Act is endorsed by the South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition and Mortgage Bankers Association.

Companion legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators John Thune (R-S.D.), Tina Smith (D-MN), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), and Jon Tester (D-MT).

Read full bill text here.

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