With historic appropriation, Hawaiian Home Lands hopes to move thousands from wait list

The governor signed a measure into law Monday that provides $600 million to Hawaiian Home Lands as part of effort to eliminate a long wait list.
Published: Jul. 11, 2022 at 10:56 AM HST|Updated: Jul. 11, 2022 at 5:02 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The governor signed a measure into law Monday that provides $600 million to Hawaiian Home Lands as part of effort to eliminate a long waiting list for beneficiaries.

Hawaiian Homes Commission Chairman William Aila called the appropriation historic.

“It is the most consequential allocation of funding that the department has received in the history of its existence,” he said. “It will expedite construction that would have been stretched out 10, 15 years. It’ll expedite it to three, four, five years.”

The money gives DHHL the ability to buy land, develop infrastructure for homes or give out housing assistance.

“Thank you for allowing us to make this giant leap forward on behalf of beneficiaries,” said Gov. David Ige.

DHHL hopes to develop roughly 4,000 lots and homes.

There are 28,000 Native Hawaiians on the waiting list for lots ― and many have waited decades. Others have passed away without ever getting help. The new law aims to get 6,000 beneficiaries off the wait list.

“We had to wait to make this happen. I’m proud for our people today,” said Leialoha “Rocky” Kaluhiwa, a Native Hawaiian advocate. “Since the age of 28, I’ve been fighting for the rights for our people and I just realized it’s been 50 years. I’m going to be 79 years old.”

Lawmakers say they worked with utilities, state financing entities, developers and the private and public sector to get the legislation passed.

“The department has been criticized over so many years about being inefficient and ineffective with the appropriation,” said state Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole (D-Kaneohe, Kailua).

“There was no way we could get the bill passed unless there was confidence from the public and the Legislature that the money would create actual housing for Hawaiian people.”

DHHL says it’s partnering other developers and counties.

“We’ve had offers to actually purchase lots from Maui County. We are looking at the same thing on the island of Kauai. University of Hawaii has said we have these buildings that could get a head start,” said Aila.

Aila says beneficiaries should make sure Hawaiian Home Land has their current address.

Ige also signed Senate Bill 3041, approving a $328 million settlement for 2,721 plaintiffs who spent years on the wait list. That lawsuit was filed in 1999.

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