For 40 years, homes in Cameron, Arizona and areas making up 1.8 million acres around it sat idly by as owners were unable to update, repair or build under what was known as the Bennett Freeze. But in 2009 President Barack Obama lifted the Freeze and on May 14 Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly called for immediate action to purchase new homes following a tour according to a Navajo press release.
Shelly toured two homes about a mile north of the Cameron Chapter house and was immediately concerned with what he saw.
“We got to get this person a home,” Shelly said as he toured the first home of a resident that wasn’t home.
The first home visited according to Raymond Maxx, director of the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission, was a trailer that was totaled in a windstorm a few years ago. Maxx said since then, the man has lived in a minivan on the property.
According to the release, the other home was a dilapidated doublewide trailer home that had two rooms lost to fire but was still inhabited.
About $1.2 million has been put into an escrow account and is readily available to help families and residents to find new housing, but protocol has kept the Nation from purchasing homes for the families according to the release, to which Maxx said homes are ready to be purchased.
“We need to do something this week about this. Let’s do it,” Shelly said in the release, adding that he is going to meet later this week with members of his cabinet to find a solution to allocate money to the families.
“This is an emergency,” Shelly said.
Some 17 families have been identified by Maxx’s office with similar living conditions and that money is available for all of them to get new housing.
Bennett Freeze, which was implemented in 1966 following a lawsuit by the Hopi Tribe to claim the area, has allowed the properties and homes to become dilapidated to an extent they are not safe to live in. The freeze was issued by then Bureau of Indian Affairs Director Robert Bennett until a court decision was made, an outcome that wasn’t answered until 2009.