Huge DHHL cash infusion could fast track development of nearly 3,000 homes
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A $600 million cash infusion for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands will likely fast track the development of nearly 3,000 homes statewide, supporters say.
The plan received key approvals in both the House and Senate on Thursday.
“In the next five years we should see many of those units being prepared to come up. And I think in the next five to ten years we should see heads in beds,” said Tyler Iokepa Gomes, DHHL deputy chair.
The DHHL already owns the land for a list of 18 projects across the state, which are at various stages of planning or construction. But it doesn’t have enough money to develop all of them.
“This is a significant amount of money but what is also important is the land assets as well to develop and prepare for our people,” said state Rep. Patrick Pihana Branco, who represents Kailua and Kaneohe Bay.
A Senate money committee proposal also sets aside $112 million for down payments and mortgage assistance.
Beneficiaries can qualify for up to $100,000 to buy a home on the regular real estate market and be removed from the DHHL’s waiting list.
“This bill is historic in nature ... affording thousands of Hawaiians a shot at life, a shot at sustainability and an opportunity to grow,” said Joe Kuhio Lewis, CEO of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement.
But there are skeptics given the DHHL’s past backlogs of millions of dollars in federal funds and stalled spending in the past.
“It is fairly obvious that these problems are systemic,” said state Rep. Bert Kobayashi, who represents Kaimuki. “Certainly, the DHHL cannot spend the money in one year or two years or even three years.”
The DHHL said those problems are in the past. And despite the doubts, no lawmaker voted against the infusion of cash.
Meanwhile, some of the 28,000 Hawaiians who have been on the waitlist for decades worry that even $600 million may not be enough.
“I too may die before I am able to have a home ... and so will everyone else who is on the wait list now,” said Regina Peterson, who is on the DHHL’s waiting list.
Even the DHHL agrees.
“This is not going to be the magic bullet ― $600 million is not going to solve the wait list, not even by half,” said Gomes.
But the department hopes that on top of the $600 million cash infusion, lawmakers will still approve regular annual appropriations. Last year’s was about $78 million.
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