California’s Tribal Housing Crisis is a Public Health Crisis. Senator McGuire’s SB 18 will Help Solve It

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Sacramento, CA – For far too long, Native American communities have been faced with deep challenges associated with long-standing impacts of historic genocide and discrimination. The numbers don’t lie:

  • Native Americans are disproportionally represented among California’s homeless population.
  • Tribal communities see higher rates of poverty and overcrowded and substandard homes compared to any other population in the Golden State. 
  • One third of tribal residents live below the federal poverty line, and approximately 9% of tribes in California have homes that lack complete plumbing and 7% lack complete kitchens.

This is simply unacceptable.

Senate Majority Leader Mike McGuire and tribal leaders from across California are moving critical legislation forward to address the clear need for tribal housing through a dedicated housing grant program via the State of California – an act that is long overdue, and desperately needed. 

SB 18 would create a tribal specific housing fund which would fund construction and rehabilitation of homes for rent and sale, specific for tribal communities. The legislation passed the Senate Governmental Organization committee today with unanimous bipartisan support.

“Tribal communities face a staggering housing crisis which is rooted in historic genocide and racism, under investment and lack of eligible funding. To truly fix this public health crisis that exists in so many California tribal communities, the State must move with speed in partnership with tribal leaders to establish an exclusive tribal housing program with dedicated infrastructure funding. That’s why we’re working hand-in-hand with tribal leaders from across the Golden State to move SB 18 forward,” McGuire said.

Despite the clear need, the overwhelming majority of tribes have been unable to access existing state housing program funds because they conflict with tribal sovereignty. They’re also often too restrictive and bureaucratic for tribes to meet the threshold and compliance requirements or they are mismatched to the needs that exist on tribal land.

Only 13 out of 109 California tribes have been awarded state funds.

SB 18 would address the severe housing shortage that exists on tribal lands by creating a new and separate housing program for tribal governments, specific to tribal needs, and designed in consultation with tribes. The legislation takes a similar approach to the Joe Serna Jr. Farmworker Housing Grant Program, which is a designated fund exclusively to address the housing needs of farm workers across the Golden State.

The bill will support the construction of new homes and the renovation of existing ones in tribal communities that have the greatest need. It would also provide technical assistance to help tribal governments to navigate the complex web of regulations and requirements that can often hinder tribal housing projects.

SB 18 is supported by: The Yurok Tribe, Big Pine Paiute Tribe of the Owens Valley, Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community of the Trinidad Rancheria, Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians, Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel, Karuk Tribe Housing Authority, Manchester Point Arena Band of Pomo Indians, Middletown Rancheria of Pomo Indians, Round Valley Indian Housing Authority, among many others. The bill is co-authored by Senators Bill Dodd and Scott Wiener and Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry.