Community Developments Investments (September 2016)

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Barry Wides, Deputy Comptroller, OCC

A home under construction on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (Housing Assistance Council)

Access to capital in Indian Country1 has always been a challenge, and some Native American2 communities rank among the poorest communities in the United States. Additionally, Native American tribes are sovereign nations with their own governments, laws, and courts. National banks and federal savings associations (collectively, banks) interested in financing homes on Indian Country may therefore be unfamiliar with and reluctant to lend there.

What banks may not realize, however, is that many of the nation's 5673 federally recognized Indian tribes have adopted the necessary legal and commercial infrastructure to reduce the uncertainty banks may have about lending in Indian Country. Moreover, the federal government allocates substantial resources to support economic development in Indian Country, and some of these resources are dedicated to increasing access to capital for building and sustaining affordable housing.

One example is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Title VI Loan Guarantee (Title VI) Program, which is the focus of this Community Developments Investments.

Authorized as the Federal Guarantees for Financing for Tribal Housing Activities program by the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996,4 the Title VI program is designed to enhance collaboration among tribes, banks, and other government programs to promote housing financing in Indian Country.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), in this Investments, spotlights the Title VI program and explains how banks may receive Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) consideration for financing affordable housing for low- and moderate-income persons and communities in Indian Country. The OCC encourages interested banks to join the federal effort supporting affordable housing in Indian Country and other communities in need.

Banks willing to lend in Indian Country stand to influence more than just their balance sheets and CRA performance. Loans and investments made by banks help secure badly needed housing and infrastructure, create jobs, and revitalize communities. The loans and investments can open doors to Native American entrepreneurs seeking to build and expand businesses and generate economic growth for their communities.

This Investments includes informative articles authored by the Title VI program administrator and two bankers who describe the program, its challenges, and its benefits to thousands of Native Americans in need of affordable housing. The views expressed in their articles are those of the authors, not necessarily the OCC's. I know you will find the following articles helpful:

  • HUD's Robert Lamp explains in "Title VI Loan Guarantee Program" how the program works and has fared since issuing its first loan guarantee in 2000.
  • Valerie Mann of First National Bank of Gordon, Neb., describes in "The Title VI Program: A Source of Hope on Pine Ridge," her bank's experience with the program. She discusses the bank's Title VI deal with the Oglala Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, one of the nation's poorest communities.
  • Tish Secrest, Bank of America's Chief CRA Officer, discusses, in "Fostering Economic Growth in Native American and Other Underserved Communities," her bank's holistic approach to community development and to doing business in Indian Country.
  • Ammar Askari, an OCC Community Development expert, describes two other programs that promote housing in Indian Country. In addition, he describes how banks can receive CRA consideration from the OCC for financing housing and community development activities in Indian Country.

Housing in Indian Country

There are large gaps between Indian Country and the rest of the United States, according to most economic and welfare indicators.5 This is particularly true for affordable housing on Indian reservations. Vibrant communities depend on safe, affordable housing. Native Americans living on reservations, however, face some of the worst housing and living conditions in the United States. Barriers to housing development in Native communities include poor infrastructure, limited private investment opportunities, low-functioning housing markets, and poverty.

According to the National Congress of American Indians, "Forty percent of on-reservation housing is considered substandard (compared to six percent outside of Indian Country) and nearly one-third of homes on reservations are overcrowded. Less than half of the homes on reservations are connected to public sewer systems, and 16 percent lack indoor plumbing. In some areas, up to 50 percent of Native American homes are without phone service. Additionally, 23 percent of Native households pay 30 percent or more of household income for housing."6

Federal Support

The federal budget for fiscal year (FY) 2016 includes funding for direct services and programs administered by tribes. More than 20 federal departments and agencies and all 567 federally recognized tribes collectively provide services to more than 2 million American Indian and Alaska Native people. The budget authorizes $20.8 billion in spending for a wide range of federal programs serving tribes, including in education, social services, justice, health, housing, infrastructure, and stewardship of land, water, and other natural resources.7

The Title VI program is designed to support affordable housing in Indian Country by helping eligible Native tribes and entities leverage their grants from another important federal program called the Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG) Program. Together these programs provide critical funding that empowers tribes to develop, implement, and manage strategies to meet the specific housing needs of their communities.

Under the FY 2016 budget, HUD was allotted $648 million for the IHBG program and $2 million for the Title VI program to be used as a credit subsidy in support of loan guarantees.8

OCC Resources

The OCC has long supported more involvement by banks in Indian County, and by tribes in the nation's banking system. For examples of banks extending credit in Indian Country, review the OCC's Community Developments Investments on "Extending Credit in Indian Country: How Banks Use Federal Programs to Promote Economic Development" (August 2013). The OCC's Community Developments Insights report on "Commercial Lending in Indian Country: Potential Opportunities in a Growing Market" (February 2016) discusses the opportunities for banks interested in lending to businesses on reservations. The report also describes several federal programs that encourage commercial lending on reservations.

The OCC has 14 district community affairs officers working in four regions across the country. They provide assistance and consultation to banks on all issues related to community development, including those related to rural and tribal communities. The OCC's Native American Banking Resource Directory lists banking and finance resources sponsored by the OCC, other federal agencies, and other organizations. For more information, see the OCC's Community Affairs' web page.


This Community Developments Investments is part of the OCC's efforts to raise awareness of innovative financing approaches and to share emerging best practices. We encourage banks serving communities that include Indian reservations to consider the Title VI program when looking for business opportunities that may help increase the supply of affordable housing in Indian Country.

For banks located in or serving Native American communities, the OCC hopes the information in this Investments informs and encourages them to learn more about the federal programs available to support their doing business in Indian Country.

For more information, contact Barry Wides at

Community Reinvestment Act 

Ammar Askari, Community Development Expert, OCC

Because Indian Country includes some of the poorest and most financially underserved communities in the country, bank activities in Indian Country may be eligible for Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) consideration.

CRA regulations define the types of activities that bank examiners consider during the course of a bank's CRA performance evaluation. These activities include loans, investments, and services that meet the CRA's definition of community development (CD).

Qualifying activities may, for example, target low- or moderate-income (LMI) individuals or geographies, or distressed or underserved nonmetropolitan middle-income geographies, as defined by the federal banking supervisory agencies. General categories of activities that qualify for consideration under the CRA regulation9 include those activities that

  • provide affordable housing or community services to LMI individuals or geographies.
  • promote economic development by financing small businesses and small farms that meet size or revenue standards defined in the regulation.
  • revitalize or stabilize LMI areas.
  • revitalize or stabilize distressed or underserved nonmetropolitan middle-income geographies, as defined by the federal bank supervisory agencies.

In most cases, the qualifying CD activity should serve the bank's assessment area,10 or the broader statewide or regional area that includes the assessment area. CD activity outside the broader statewide or regional area may be considered if the bank has a nationwide branch network, or is designated wholesale or limited purpose when it conducts the activity.

Qualitative factors may influence CRA consideration given to these activities, including the following:

  • The activity is responsive to credit or CD needs in the area.
  • The activity involves innovative or flexible lending practices conducted in a safe and sound manner to address the credit needs of LMI individuals or geographies.
  • The type of investment is not routinely provided by private investors.

Banks of all sizes can receive CRA consideration for making retail loans that help meet the credit needs of LMI individuals, small businesses, or small farms. Although CRA regulations emphasize home mortgage, small business, and small farm loans located in a bank's assessment area or areas, the OCC may consider retail loans made outside a bank's assessment areas or areas to LMI individuals, small businesses, or small farms.

Under the CRA regulations, loans, investments, and services provided to a tribe or tribally designated housing entity to provide affordable housing primarily for LMI individuals using the Title VI program may be eligible for CRA consideration. How activities are considered varies depending on the applicable evaluation process.

For more information, contact Ammar Askari at

1 "Indian Country" is a legally defined term in 18 USC 1151 that generally refers to Indian reservations and other Indian areas. The U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) defines a federal Indian reservation as "an area of land reserved for a tribe or tribes under treaty or other agreement with the United States, executive order, or federal statute or administrative action as permanent tribal homelands, and where the federal government holds title to the land in trust on behalf of the tribe" (see BIA's FAQs). Section IV of the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act of 1996, as amended, defines Indian area as "the area within which an Indian tribe or a tribally designated housing entity, as authorized by 1 or more Indian tribes, to provides assistance under this Act for affordable housing."

2 In the United States, "Native American" refers to a person belonging to one of three primary groups: Native Hawaiians, Alaska Natives, and American Indians (residents of the contiguous United States). The Title VI program, highlighted in this Investments, is applicable to federally recognized tribes and tribally designated housing entities located within Alaska and the contiguous United States. Therefore, "Native American," in this context, refers only to Alaska Natives and American Indians.

3 For the number of federally recognized tribes, see 81 FR 26826 (May 4, 2016).

4 See 25 USC 4101 et seq. and 24 CFR 1000.

5 See American Indian employment and poverty rates in the 2013 American Indian Population and Labor Force Report, Office of the Assistant Secretary - Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior (January 16, 2014).

6 See the National Congress of American Indians' "Housing and Infrastructure" web page.

7 "Middle Class Economics: Standing With Indian Country," The President's Budget, Fiscal Year 2016.

8 Public and Indian Housing, Native American Housing Block Grants, 2017 Summary Statement and Initiatives, in the Fiscal Year 2017 Congressional Justification, HUD, p. 11-1.

9 See Federal Financial Institutions Council's "Interagency Questions and Answers Regarding Community Reinvestment."

10 Assessment areas generally refers to the areas in which the bank has its main office, its branches, and its deposit-taking automated teller machines..

This publication is part of:

Collection: Community Developments Investments

Deputy Comptroller
Barry Wides

Editorial Staff
Ammar Askari
Janet Fix

Design Staff
Victor Battista
Vincent Harris

On the cover
Native American totem pole with photos (from top to bottom) of a construction worker building a home in Eagle Butte, S.D., a home under construction, and newly completed homes on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Nebraska. (Photos courtesy of the Housing Assistance Council.)

For questions or comments, call (202) 649-6420 or email This and previous editions are available on the OCC's website at

Articles by non-OCC authors represent the authors' own views and not necessarily the views of the OCC.

Deputy Comptroller
Barry Wides

Editorial Staff
Ted Wartell
Bill Reeves
David Black
Dan Gibbard

Design Staff
Rick Shacklette
Cheryle Robison

For questions or comments, call (202) 649-6420 or email This and previous editions are available on the OCC's website at

Articles by non-OCC authors represent the authors' own views and not necessarily the views of the OCC.