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California state senators have unanimously advanced a bid to establish a state housing fund for Native Americans, aiming to counteract a continuing housing shortage in tribal communities already plagued by poverty and homelessness.

Senate Bill 18, or the Tribal Housing Reconstitution and Resiliency Act, would amend California’s Health and Safety Code to include a fund aimed at building and rehabilitating affordable homes for California residents, per a state by Senate Majority Leader and Democrat Mike McGuire, who represents the state’s North Coast region. 

“Tribal communities face a staggering housing crisis which is rooted in historic genocide and racism, under-investment and lack of eligible funding,” McGuire said in a statement. “To truly fix this public health crisis that exists in so many California tribal communities, the state must move with speed in partnership with tribal leaders to establish an exclusive tribal housing program with dedicated infrastructure funding. That’s why we’re working hand-in-hand with tribal leaders from across the Golden State to move SB 18 forward.”

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McGuire pointed to dire straits for Natives across the state: 9 percent of California’s tribes have homes without complete plumbing, while 7 percent of tribes have homes that lack complete kitchens. Those issues are compounded by widespread poverty — more than one-third of tribal residents live below the federal poverty line, per McGuire’s statement. 

Tribes attempting to address the issue through state support find themselves stymied by bureaucracy and conflicts with tribal sovereignty, McGuire writes. Some falter under stringent thresholds and compliance requirements, while others find existing state housing programs — many of which target broader populations instead of specific demographics such as Natives — unsuitable for their needs. 

Under SB 18, the state would establish a Tribal Housing Grant Program Trust Fund, appropriated annually for a five-year period that would begin next January 1 and run through December 31, 2028. A legal consultant speaking to The Center Square estimated the fund would cost roughly $1 million a year to run and could garner as much as $100 million from the general budget each year.

The program has been designed in consultation with state tribes, McGuire writes, which helps tailor assistance to specific tribal needs. The approach has garnered support from many California tribes, including the Yurok Tribe, the Karuk Tribe, the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians, and others, per McGuire’s statement. 

“SB 18 would be a game changer for all California tribes and it is extremely important for Dry Creek Rancheria,” said The Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo IndiansChair Chris Wright, speaking to Capitol Weekly. “We have such a huge need for housing and this would definitely help.” 

The bill advanced from the Senate Appropriations Committee through a unanimous, 7-person vote on May 18, then passed the Senate on May 25. The bill now goes to the California State Assembly for a vote, though that date has not yet been announced. 

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About The Author
Chez Oxendine
Author: Chez OxendineEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Chesley Oxendine (Lumbee-Cheraw) is an Oklahoma-based reporter for Native News Online and its sister publication, Tribal Business News. His journalism has been featured in the Fort Gibson Times, Muskogee Phoenix, Native Oklahoma Magazine, and elsewhere.