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HUD’s Tribal Housing Grant Deductions OK’d

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) - The government did not violate Native Americans' housing-assistance rights by lowering grants after discovering past overpayments, the 9th Circuit ruled Thursday.

The Crow Tribal Housing Authority claimed in a lawsuit that U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development should have held a hearing before making deductions from future housing-block grants to the tribe, after a 2001 audit revealed that the department had overpaid the tribe by $1.2 million.

The tribe claimed that, under the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996, HUD was required to hold a hearing so the tribe could contest the planned deductions.

A Federal Court in Montana found for the Crow tribe in 2013 and ordered HUD to conduct a hearing, but the 9th Circuit reversed the ruling on Thursday.

Judge Morgan Christen wrote in a 24-page opinion that it took the tribe two years to respond to HUD's letters asking for input on a plan to correct the overpayments.

She said that tribal leaders finally met with HUD in 2004 and requested an on-site review before the department went through with the repayment schedule, to which HUD agreed. The tribe asked HUD to reconsider the future deductions, she said, but never asked for a formal hearing.

The tribe claimed in court that HUD violated a provision of the act that requires a hearing when HUD finds a tribe to be in "substantial noncompliance," but Christen said that provision does not apply to this case because HUD attributed the overpayment errors to itself, not to the tribe.

Christen added that the department's deduction plan was consistent with a provision of the act that permits HUD to adjust a tribe's grant amount after conducting an audit.

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