Hundreds of Native Hawaiian homeless people could be housed in accessory dwelling units with the help of the Department of Hawaiian Homelands, a new Hawaiian Community Assets study says.
"On Hawaiian Homelands, there's trust lands with zero acquisition cost that would allow us to invest the dollars in vertical improvements versus spending money on the land itself," HCA Executive Director Jeff Gilbreath said.
About one-third of Hawaii's homeless population is Native Hawaiian.
HCA, a financial counseling and community lending institution, said the units could be affordable rentals that would move many homeless Native Hawaiians into housing.
HCA President Michelle Kauhane believes DHHL has enough funds to build the accessory dwelling units.
"They need services," she said, of homeless Native Hawaiians.
Kauhane said DHHL has received $10 million annually from the federal government that could go to building affordable rentals.
A three-day convention in Waikiki is meant to rally Native Hawaiians around the idea.
"We do believe that there are options and that there is a continuum of service needed by native Hawaiians that take them from homelessness to home ownership, and rentals could and should be a viable option," Kauhane said.
But DHHL said the federal funds have restrictions on how the monies can be spent.
"The DHHL has been reviewing the rental and ADU option for some time now, specifically to review Administrative Rules for both options," DHHL communication officer Paula Aila said.
She said the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act states a lessee "may be permitted, with the approval of the department, to rent to a Native Hawaiian." The renter must have 50 percent or more Hawaiian blood.
"This would provide guidance on a rental program for DHHL," Aila said.
Kauai homesteader Kipukai Kualii said the rentals would in essence be businesses.
"Hawaiian Homelands was not just for residents and agriculture and pastoral, it was also for businesses," he said. "It's something that Department of Hawaiian Homelands has not been addressing."
Gilbreath said as community groups educate families to help them get into housing, "we need the housing stock so that the families can move in and build up."
"While other organizations are permitted to serve all Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians to meet the need for Housing, the DHHL is obligated to serve Applicants of 50 percent or more Hawaiian blood and lessees already living in homes on the homesteads," Aila said.