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Originally published November 25, 2008 at 11:00 PM | Page modified November 26, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Tribal housing agencies file lawsuits against HUD

Three American Indian tribes' housing agencies, including that of the Yakama Nation, have filed lawsuits against the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, claiming it illegally reduced the amount of annual block grant funding they're entitled to under federal law.

DENVER —

Three American Indian tribes' housing agencies, including that of the Yakama Nation, have filed lawsuits against the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, claiming it illegally reduced the amount of annual block grant funding they're entitled to under federal law.

The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and its housing authority, the Yakama Nation Housing Authority in Washington state, and the Modoc Lassen Indian Housing Authority in California each filed suit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Denver.

The Modoc Lassen housing authority is the tribally designated housing entity for the Grindstone Indian Rancheria of Wintun-Wailaki Indians.

The lawsuits say they were filed in Colorado because HUD's Denver-based National Office of Native American Programs' Grants Management Office took many of the actions being challenged.

According to the suits, federal law mandates that the tribal housing agencies receive annual block grant funding from HUD to help them provide and administer affordable housing programs for low-income families.

The agencies' share of that funding is calculated using a statutory formula. The plaintiffs say the formula factors in the number of low-income housing units they owned or operated on Sept. 30, 1997.

The lawsuits allege that HUD unlawfully reduced the amount of block grant funding the plaintiffs were entitled to by improperly requiring that some of the plaintiffs' housing units be eliminated from the funding formula.

The Yakima Housing Authority's lawsuit also seeks to prevent HUD from trying to recoup alleged overpayments.

The Yakima agency says it has filed a separate lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims that seeks to recover grant money that HUD has unlawfully withheld from it in previous fiscal years.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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