Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA)

NAHASDA is a federal law giving tribes more freedom to write their own rules for tribal housing. NAHASDA grants tribes money to provide housing to tribal members. It also allows tribes to figure out whether they wish to rent or sell to low-income tribal members. A tribe can also provide housing for part of the community, such as elders or people working through drug or alcohol problems. #9203EN

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Should I read this?

Yes, if you are applying for, in, or being evicted from tribal housing.

What is NAHASDA?

This federal law

  • Gives tribes more freedom to write their own rules for tribal housing.

  • Grants tribes money to provide housing to tribal members.

  • Lets tribes decide if they want to rent or sell to low-income tribal members.

  • Lets tribes provide housing for part of the community, such as elders or people working through drug or alcohol problems.

How does a tribe get NAHASDA funding?

It must create one-year and five-year plans for its tribal housing project. The plans must fit in one of these categories: 

  • Development

  • Maintenance and management

  • Crime prevention and safety

  • The creation of model housing programs

The tribe must follow federal guidelines for income requirements of tenants.

Does my tribe get NAHASDA funds?

Currently, all federally recognized tribes in Washington State get NAHASDA funding. Check with your tribe about housing programs in your area.

What are NAHASDA’s income requirements for tribal housing?

Most NAHASDA funding is for families with low incomes. These families make less than 80% of the area median income. The median income may be higher in areas such as Seattle and Vancouver. Ask your tribe about its income requirements.

NAHASDA’s guidelines require that you spend no more than 30% of your income on housing. The tribal housing authority cannot charge more than 30% of your income for NAHASDA-subsidized units.

How does NAHASDA work for me?

Any projects that get federal funding must comply with federal guidelines.  These guidelines include but are not limited to:

  1. Tenants must meet income requirements. See above. If you have been denied tribal housing while tribal members who do not meet the income requirements have gotten federally subsidized housing from your tribe, you may have a legal remedy.

  2. The housing authority’s lease agreement cannot have unreasonable terms. Example: The tribe cannot ask you to sign an agreement permitting it to allow the building to be uninhabitable.

  3. You cannot be evicted before the end of the lease without good cause. Good cause means serious or repeated lease violations, such as repeatedly not paying the rent.

  4. The housing authority can evict you if it determines:

    • You threaten other community members’ health, safety, or peaceful enjoyment (continual loud noises, even if part of religious worship, may be a threat to peaceful enjoyment); OR

    • You are involved in criminal activity, especially drug-related activity. It does not matter where it takes place. If a court finds a household member guilty of a drug offense, no matter where it took place, you can be evicted. It does not matter if you had no knowledge of the illegal activity.
  5. If you are being evicted from tribal housing, you have a right to look at any documents, records, or regulations related to the eviction before going to a hearing or trial.

  6. The housing authority must give you proper written notice if they want to evict you. If they are evicting you, they must give you time to move.

  7. A housing authority that rejects your application for housing must tell you why in writing.

What if my tribe does not follow the guidelines?

  1. Most tribal housing authorities have complaint procedures. You can tell the housing authority how you think it has violated your rights. Ask for a copy of the tribe’s Housing Authority grievance procedure. If there is not one, check the tribal code. It might explain how to file a complaint with the housing authority. You may only have a few days to do so – act fast!

  2. If you have explained the violations to the housing authority and they are still denying you your rights, you may be able to file a claim in tribal court. First, check the tribal code’s housing laws to see if they have violated your rights under the tribal code. Also, tribes generally have sovereign immunity. This means you cannot sue them. But there are sometimes exceptions to this bar to being sued. Read Due Process in Indian Country available at to understand more about sovereign immunity and when you might be able to bring a case against the housing authority in tribal court.

  3. NAHASDA promotes tribal self-determination. Try to work through any problems with the tribal housing authority first. If you think it is not following federal guidelines, such as not explaining why it rejected your application, call the local office for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Ask for help from the Office of Native American Programs. The local office serving WA is in Seattle. Their phone number is (206) 220-5101.

Where can I get more information about tribal housing?

Your tribe is the best resource. See HUD’s Office of Native American Programs General Info or Info about NAHASDA.

What if I need legal help?

The Northwest Justice Project’s Native American Unit (NAU) provides free civil (non-criminal) legal services for Native Americans who cannot afford a lawyer in Washington. 

In King County: Call 2-1-1.
All other counties: Call the CLEAR hotline toll-free at 1-888-201-1014, 9:15 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. weekdays. 

If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call 1-800-833-6384 or 711 for a free relay operator. They will connect you with 211 or CLEAR.


This publication provides general information concerning your rights and responsibilities.  It is not intended as a substitute for specific legal advice. 
This information is current as of December 2018.

© 2018 Northwest Justice Project — 1-888-201-1014

(Permission for copying and distribution granted to the Equal Justice Network and to individuals for non-commercial use only.)


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Last Review and Update: Dec 14, 2018
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