The U.S. Senate has announced the passage of S. 70, the Tribal Trust Land Homeownership Act of 2023, a bill that sets forth requirements for the processing of a proposed residential leasehold mortgage, business leasehold mortgage, land mortgage, or right-of-way document by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).
Under S. 70, the BIA must notify lenders upon receipt of such documentation, perform a preliminary review of such 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 bipartisan Tribal Trust Land Homeownership Act of 2023 was introduced in the Senate on January 25, 2023 by Republican Sens. John Thune and Mike Rounds of South Dakota, along with Democratic Sens. Tina Smith of Minnesota and Jon Tester of Montana.
“Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) applauds the Senate passage of the Tribal Trust Land Homeownership Act of 2023,” said Bill Killmer, SVP of Legislative and Political Affairs at the MBA. “This important legislation will reduce or eliminate BIA processing delays, thereby improving access to credit by encouraging more lenders to participate in trust land mortgage lending. We commend Sens. Thune, Smith, Rounds, and Tester for reintroducing this bipartisan bill during this Congress and for their work in helping it pass by unanimous consent. We urge the House to vote on the bill as soon as possible so that it can be signed into law by President Joe Biden.”
Additionally, the Tribal Trust Land Homeownership Act of 2023 sets forth requirements for the BIA regarding:
- Response times for the completion of certified title status reports,
- Notification of delays in processing, and
- The form of notices and delivery of certain reports.
The bill also provides relevant federal agencies and Indian tribes with read-only access to the Trust Asset and Accounting Management System maintained by the BIA.
"The bill establishes new requirements for the processing of residential leasehold mortgages, business leasehold mortgages, land mortgages, and right-of-way documents by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It also outlines required response times for the completion of certified title status reports, notification of delays in processing, and the necessary form of notices and delivery of certain reports," said Miki Adams, President of CBC Mortgage Agency. "As a tribally owned home lender, we have a deep-seeded interest in making it easier for American Indian families to become homeowners. The Tribal Trust Land Homeownership Act is a powerful step toward eliminating the delays many Indigenous families face when buying a home. We call on the House of Representatives to swiftly pass this important legislation and send it to President Biden for his signature."
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) must report on digitizing documents for the purpose of streamlining and expediting the completion of mortgage packages for residential mortgages on Indian land.
Finally, the bill establishes within the BIA's Division of Real Estate Services the position of Realty Ombudsman.
“It is essential that Native people have equal access to mortgage transactions, just like any other citizen in this country,” said Chelsea E. Fish, Executive Director at the National American Indian Housing Council. “This bill focuses on aligning the processes of the BIA with standard practices in the private mortgage industry. We commend legislators for prioritizing mortgage processes within the BIA and promoting a culture of accountability.”