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Bush to Cut Indian Housing He Praised

The program the president lauded at a campaign stop in New Mexico will see its funding sharply reduced in his budget.

August 14, 2004|From Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development plans to cut the budget of an American Indian housing program praised by President Bush during a campaign stop here this week.

Department officials say the program can be cut because it has millions of dollars in unspent money -- indicating there aren't enough takers to warrant the current level of funding.

Bush, during a speech Wednesday in Albuquerque, praised the program as making the American dream available to all.

He did not mention plans to cut its money.

"Doesn't it make sense to have public policy aimed at helping people own their own home?" Bush told a crowd of about 1,000. "I can't think of a better use of resources."

The Indian Housing and Guarantee Fund went into effect in 1992. Between July 1992 and November 2003, it made possible 417 loans worth $41 million.

Bush's proposed budget would reduce the program's annual funding from $5.3 million to $1 million, which would allow it to back $29 million in home loans, according to HUD.

In addition, the budget seeks the return of $33 million in unspent funds from the program.

The chairman of the National American Indian Housing Council, an Indian housing advocacy group, said Thursday that the cuts would stall the program just as it was gaining momentum.

Chester Carl said the program had started out slowly but that tribes now understood there was another way to get housing, and banks now knew they could make loans on tribal land.

"It's going to go backward," Carl said.

A Bush campaign spokesman, Danny Diaz, said Indian housing loans had doubled under Bush's administration.

He also said there was enough money in the program to satisfy all requests for the rest of this fiscal year.

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