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With applause and hugs, lawmakers agree on $600M infusion to DHHL

The money gives DHHL the ability to buy land, develop infrastructure for homes or give out housing assistance.
Published: Apr. 28, 2022 at 5:24 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 29, 2022 at 4:06 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - State lawmakers have signed off on legislation to give $600 million to the Department Of Hawaiian Home Lands to get more beneficiaries off a long waiting list.

There was applause and hugs after a Senate and House conference committee passed the historic bill. The money would be the largest one-time infusion of state money from the Legislature to DHHL.

“We’ve been waiting for this for such a long time. It’s an emotional time for a lot of us. I’m excited for us to take this vote,” said state Rep. Stacelynn Eli, a West Oahu homesteader who has been on the waiting list for land for more than a decade. There are 28,700 others like her.

“To have something like this so historic and so positive for the Native Hawaiian community. I’m almost at a loss for words,” said Eli.

The money gives DHHL the ability to buy land, develop infrastructure for homes or give out housing assistance. Onlookers say the funds could build up to 3,000 homes.

“It’s a really incredible day,” said Tyler Iokepa Gomes, deputy chair of DHHL.

“If you had told me three months ago that the legislature was going to pass $600 million to DHHL, I probably would not have believed you.”

Previous language that would take beneficiaries off the wait list in exchange for housing assistance was taken out, but the department could consider that later.

It would have three years to deploy the funds or lose them.

“It’s going to be incumbent on the next governor to put a team together at Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to execute on these projects,” said state Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole.

The bill now goes to the full House and Senate where it’s expected to easily pass on to the governor.

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