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Mortgage Lending under Tribal Sovereignty: Efforts to Expand Mortgage Lending on the Navajo Nation, 33 Urb. Law. 433 (2001)


Native Americans living on reservations suffer severe housing distress. Even middle- and upper-income Indians on reservations are confronted by inadequate housing, a situation aggravated by a lack of access to home mortgages. Through 1994, not a single conventional mortgage had been closed on the Navajo Nation, an Indian reservation with a land area larger than that of nine states.

This climate is changing, however; new loan products, new attitudes, and new priorities are combining to make mortgage lending and homeownership more viable for Native Americans. On the Navajo reservation, this endeavor is being led by a nonprofit organization, the Navajo Partnership for Housing (NPH). By offering extensive counseling and educational services and by guiding prospective home buyers through the bureaucracy that accompanies lending on the Navajo Nation, NPH is facilitating Navajo homeownership. To better understand the complex challenges facing NPH, we begin by presenting background information on Native Americans generally, and the Navajo specifically, by describing the multiple obstacles to homeownership on the Navajo reservation. Our discussion is based on research conducted from 1997 through 1999 and builds from, and adopts portions of, earlier research conducted for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

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