I want to thank the Chairman for moving forward with consideration of the four HUD nominees before the committee today. These are vital positions at HUD and I believe the successful administration of federal housing programs is in jeopardy as long as these positions remain vacant. Housing is a foremost priority for my rural state, and I am eager to continue working with HUD and the members of this committee to address this nation's housing concerns.
I am impressed with the nominees and I wanted to take this opportunity to remind each of them of the challenges faced by rural areas. I know that HUD Secretary Cuomo is committed to coordinating the efforts of Housing and Urban Development with that of the USDA, the Veterans Administration, and other federal agencies for the advancement of rural development and housing needs, and I believe the nominees under consideration today will effectively move forward with that commitment.
Housing at every level of affordability is extremely scarce in my rural state. The low income assistance programs administered by HUD primarily serve the elderly and disabled in South Dakota. The low-income housing stock currently available in my state is persistently inadequate to meet the needs of these individuals and families, and I applaud HUD and my colleagues for including distinct protections for elderly and disabled project-based assistance in recent housing reform legislation. I expect the same sensitivity to the unique needs of rural states from the nominees, and I look forward to working with them toward continued security for low-income housing in the coming years.
As my Committee colleagues are aware, I am also particularly concerned with the impact of extreme poverty on the many Indian reservations in my state, and I feel strongly that the federal government must maintain its commitment to Native American housing and development programs nationwide. There are nine federally recognized tribes in South Dakota, whose members collectively make up one of the largest Native American populations in any state. At the same time, South Dakota has three of the ten poorest counties in the nation, all of which are within reservation boundaries. Unemployment on these rural reservations averages above 50%, and housing is scarce and substandard. Yet economic depression in rural communities is not unique to my state. I believe strongly that housing is an integral and most basic component to economic development for Indian and non-Indian communities alike.
To that end I have specific questions for Mr. Harold Lucas, nominee to the position of Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing. I would appreciate written responses to these questions prior to Senate approval of this nominee.
I look forward to working with the nominees, my Banking Committee colleagues, and Indian
tribes nationwide to ensure a promising future for Indian Housing programs, with the health and
welfare of Indian tribes our foremost priority.
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