Johnson sponsors Tribal Trust Land Homeownership Act

U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD) on Monday sponsored legislation that would require the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to process and complete all mortgage packages associated with residential and business mortgages on Indian land by certain deadlines.

“Housing availability is lacking across the country,” Rep. Johnson said. “It’s no different on tribal lands. Without proper timelines or accountability, the BIA is creating a longer and more difficult process for those trying to purchase tribal trust land. This bill advocates for purchasers and lenders, bringing accountability to the BIA.”

The Tribal Trust Land Homeownership Act of 2023, H.R. 3579, which is cosponsored by U.S. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), aims to streamline the approval process for mortgages involving property on tribal trust land, according to a bill summary provided by Rep. Johnson’s office.

Currently, mortgages involving property on tribal trust land must be reviewed and approved by the BIA in order to be finalized. And while the BIA Mortgage Handbook establishes timelines for BIA offices to process and approve these mortgages, the deadlines aren’t always met, according to the summary.

If enacted, H.R. 3579 would create statutory timelines in which the BIA would be required to process and approve mortgages involving property located on tribal trust land, and require the BIA to perform a preliminary review of documents not later than 10 days after receipt and approve or disapprove of such documents within 20 or 30 days, depending on the type of application, the summary says.

Additionally, the BIA would be required to notify the lender once the proposed residential leasehold mortgage, business leasehold mortgage, or right-of-way document has been received.

And to improve communication between the BIA and tribes, tribal members, and lenders, a realty ombudsman would be established within the BIA, states the summary.

H.R. 3579, which has been endorsed by the South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition and the Mortgage Bankers Association, is under consideration by the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee.