PABLO — The process for eligible Confederated Salish and Kootenai veterans, active-duty military to apply for a Veterans Affairs home loan on federal trust land got easier two years ago when CSKT signed a memorandum of understanding with U.S. the Department Veterans Affairs.
Buying homes on reservation lands held in trust by the federal government is difficult across Indian Country. Most banks do not write mortgages for reservation homes because they can’t hold the property as collateral as they normally would if individuals owned the property.
By statute, before the VA can make a loan to a Native American veteran desiring to build or renovate a home on tribal land, the veteran’s tribal sovereign governing body must enter into a MOU with VA.
CSKT and Department of Veterans Affairs MOU
The MOU signed on July 13, 2017 by CSKT states that the Secretary of Veterans Affairs is authorized under 38 U.S. Code 3761 to establish a program of direct loans for Native Americans living on trust lands; and CSKT Tribal Council has jurisdiction over Native veterans living on the Flathead Indian Reservation.
The agreement states “the VA loans for qualified CSKT tribal veterans may be for purchase, construction or improvement of homes on trust lands to the extent funds are available and subject to terms and conditions by the VA.”
Because tribal lands are held in federal trust and cannot be sold or owned by non-tribal members or entities, the MOU allows CSKT tribal member veterans to use land, home and any improvements on their property as collateral for the VA loan. The property will remain under tribal control, but the monetary value will be owed to the VA should the borrower wish to resell the land or is foreclosed on.
Through the CSKT VA MOU agents and staff of the VA are permitted to enter on tribal trust lands to carry out actions from the VA to evaluate the advisability of the loan and to monitor any purchase, construction, or improvements carried out using the proceeds of the loan.
CSKT will assist the VA in efforts “to manage the home loan program in finding qualified substitute purchasers if the initial buyer is unable to his or her obligation under the law, carrying out evictions, assuring that mortgages and other legal instruments can be properly recorded and otherwise assuring that the program is operated in a responsible and prudent manner.”
Native American VA Direct Home Loan
Bill Haines, the VA Denver Regional Loan Officer held a workshop at the CSKT Tribal Council Chambers for veterans to learn, ask questions, with the guidance to apply for a Native American Direct Loan earlier this month.
Haines went over income eligibility; credit, bankruptcy and prior foreclosure; verifications; Indian Health Services available funds for water/septic and water quality testing; responsibilities of the buyer; and advantages.
The NADL has been in existence since 1992 to allowing veterans to borrow at a low interest rate without a down payment. However, there is a small 1.25 percent fee Native American Veterans must pay to obtain VA’s direct loan to purchase a home. The funding fee to refinance a prior VA loan is a minimal 0.50 percent. Borrowers have the option to finance the VA funding fee or pay it in cash, but the funding fee must be paid at the time of loan closing. You never have to pay the funding fee if you are a veteran receiving VA compensation for a service-connected disability, or a veteran who would be entitled to receive compensation for a service-connected disability if you did not receive retirement or active duty pay; or a surviving spouse of a Veteran who died in service or from a service-connected disability.
To learn more, call toll-free Bill Haines, VA Team Lead, Native American Direct Loan Coordinator, Denver Regional Loan Center at 1-888-349-7541, Option 1; or email firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans for more information about the Native American Direct Home Loan Program (NADL).
Salish Kootenai Housing Authority Affordable Home Ownership coordinator Mary Driscoll may also assist in NADL application guidance. Contact Driscoll at (406) 675-4491, ext. 1517; or email her at email@example.com.