Native American veterans -- or veterans married to Native Americans -- can receive loans for homes on federal trust lands at a lower rate for up to the next two years.
The Department of Veterans Affairs announced March 23 that it has lowered the rate of loans provided through the VA Native American Direct Loan (NADL) program from 6% to 2.5%.
The VA provides the loans for homes on federal trust lands directly instead of backing the loans through other lenders. Banks generally don't like to finance homes on tribal lands because the property can't be seized if the borrower defaults. The NADL loans don't require down payments or mortgage insurance, and closing costs are limited, according to the announcement.
Native American veterans who aren't buying a home on federal trust lands can still receive typical VA-backed home loans, just not direct NADL loans at the lower rate.
The new rate is for borrowers who closed on NADL loans starting March 13. It is for the life of the loan. Veterans who already have NADL loans at a rate of 3.5% or higher will be able to refinance to receive the new lower rate.
"Native American Veterans are now able to more affordably buy, build and improve homes on trust land," said John Bell III, executive director of the VA Loan Guaranty Service, in a news release.
The rate will be available "for no more than 24 months," according to the announcement. The VA must have a Memorandum of Understanding in place with the borrower's tribal government to provide a loan through the NADL program, and the borrower must meet the VA's credit and income standards.
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said in a statement that the new rate is "a step in the right direction in getting Native American veterans access to quality, affordable housing," but that "there's still work to be done when it comes to delivering Native veterans the tools to buy, build or fix homes" on federal trust land.
Tester is sponsoring the Native American Direct Loan Improvement Act, which would also better market the NADL program and allow existing mortgages on the same property to be refinanced as an NADL loan.
Native American veterans or veterans who married a Native American, and who are interested in the NADL program, can email NADL@va.gov or call 888-349-7541 for more information.
-- Amanda Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.