The Office of Hawaiian Affairs & The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands commit to a partnership…

to create housing for all Hawaiians

November 2011 KA WAI OLA COLUMN

`Ano`ai kakou…  On September 21, 2011, the OHA Board of Trustees held a historic joint meeting with the nine-member Hawaiian Home Lands Commission to discuss ways to expand our roles in creating housing opportunities for Hawaiians.  The meeting prompted a great deal of discussion about the ways trustees and commissioners could work together to increase housing opportunities for all Hawaiians.

OHA and DHHL have a long history of working together to create homeownership opportunities for Hawaiian
families.  For example, we worked together to house 279 Hawaiian families in the Kānehili subdivision in Kapolei
and 19 others in the new Kaupuni community in Wai‘anae.

OHA has also contributed $500,000 to a joint effort with DHHL to renovate Kalaniana‘ole Hall in Moloka‘i; $667,000 to rebuild Kawānaanakao Gym on the Big Island; and $3 million to build the 85-unit Waimanalo Kupuna Housing.  In addition, OHA has provided $3 million annually to cover the debt service on bond funding of approximately $40 million on various DHHL projects.  And in 1994, OHA set aside $20 million for down payment and home repair loans for homeowners and those on the waiting list.

According to the Star-Advertiser (9/23/11) Hawaii is one of the bottom states when it comes to owning a home and renting.  Hawaii was the highest in the nation for the median cost of a home, at $525,400, compared with West Virginia, which ranked the lowest at $95,100.  The national average was $179,900.

Our median rent was first in the U.S. at $1,291, compared with West Virginia, which came in last at $571.  The median rent in the nationwide was $855.

Among our islands, Oahu had the highest monthly rent at $1,363, while the Big Island had the lowest at $972.  The percentage
of multigenerational households here was the highest in the country at 7.2 percent.

According to OHA’s Kauhale: Native Hawaiians and Housing report (9/21/11), Native Hawaiians:

  • Experience a disproportionately high rates of unsheltered homelessness and make up a significant portion of the population in shelters;
  • Spend a significant amount of their income on housing; and
  • Must compete for both rental and homeownership opportunities in an inflated market.

Our local people are also faced with the fact that landlords are aware that the federal government supplements housing for military families and are also providing them with a cost of living allowance (COLA).  Given these benefits, military families are able to pay the high rents charged by landlords, while our local people are not.

I believe the solution lies in partnering with other advocates and pooling our resources to address the core issue of homelessness – the lack of affordable rentals and homes.

Going forward, the key to success will be to think outside of the narrow vision of building only single family homes.  We must build townhomes where more than one family can live in, nice apartments or transitional housing units for single family members and Kupuna.

I look forward to working closely with the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands Director and its Commissioners in the coming years to vastly improve the housing conditions for all of our Hawaiian people.

Aloha Ke Akua and Imua Hawaii nei.