With thousands on waitlist for Hawaiian Home Lands, state pledges more funding
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After repeated cries for funding, state lawmakers are now pledging $600 million to thousands of Native Hawaiian on the waitlist for homes.
It was one of the biggest funding commitments they announced in Wednesday’s opening day of the state legislature.
For decades, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands has been underfunded. And while this is only the beginning of the legislative process, many are hopeful the bill be approved.
Leslie Gohier of Waianae is one of over 28,000 people waiting for a place to call home on Hawaiian Home Lands.
“Oh, every day I keep hoping,” said Gohier.
She first applied in August 1988 but wasn’t ready to move forward with the process because she had no income.
With the help of her daughter, they tried again a few years ago.
“And we got lot selection, [but] we weren’t called,” said Gohier. “So, that was kind of bummer.”
“I was just really frustrated, you’re kind of like almost there, and then you get there, and you don’t get it,” said Gohier’s daughter, Heide Kila. “But that’s just how it goes with homestead, either you get them, or you don’t.”
They took their chances once again, but then COVID hit.
“I didn’t have any income at that point, so we didn’t qualify again,” said Kila. “So, the pandemic has been a really bitter pill to swallow.”
They say Wednesday’s promise from the legislature to DHHL is an answer to their prayers.
“There’s no words that can say how happy I am that somebody finally has stepped forward,” said Gohier.
DHHL’s Deputy Chairman, Tyler Iokepa Gomes said that would cut down the waitlist by thousands.
He added that money could also help an existing program that offers down payment assistance.
“We’ve got to have more diverse options,” said Gomes. “And money like this enables us to expand our reach and try even more creative things that haven’t been done in the past.”
Now it’s a matter of what state lawmakers decide to do.
“We’ve been renters all our lives, so we’ve never had the opportunity to buy a home because we just fall short on many, many points,” said Kila. “So hopefully with this new thing, everybody has an opportunity and a chance to become homeowners in Hawaii, where we live and grew up in.”
Those who are eligible can submit two applications, one for a homestead lot and the other for agriculture or pastoral land.
DHHL said there are over 40,000 applications total.
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