Governor appoints political ally to find more homesteads for Native Hawaiians

“This is one of the hardest jobs in state government, in my opinion."
Published: Dec. 13, 2022 at 5:06 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 13, 2022 at 6:52 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It’s a job that brings together the statewide shortage of affordable housing with longtime grievances of the Native Hawaiian community.

Gov. Josh Green has appointed former City Council Chair Ikaika Anderson to serve as chairman of the state Department of Hawaiian Homelands.

Anderson lost in his bid to be lieutenant governor and was seen as an ally of Josh Green so some are privately suggesting this is a political reward. But others said he is the right man to take on a $600 million challenge.

State Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole, who is vice chair of the Senate Hawaiian Affairs Committee, will be asked to vote on Anderson’s confirmation.

“This is one of the hardest jobs in state government, in my opinion,” Keohokalole said.

“And there is a significant amount of pressure on this position because of the historic appropriation that was passed last year.”

That’s the $600 miillion in cash that lawmakers approved to put thousands more homes into the Homelands program for Native Hawaiian families. The existing Homelands leadership developed and sent to the governor a plan that was criticized as being too focused on infrastructure and not enough on immediate housing needs.

Robin Puanani Danner, chair of the Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations, said homesteaders worked with experts to present an alternative plan that emphasized multiple tactics to make more housing and home ownership opportunities available.


“To build vertical rental, to build housing, to issue capital and grants upfront for down payments to reduce interest rate pricing, to give capital to be able to buy down by the points down on interest rates,” she said.

She said the council also supports infrastructure to generate homestead projects, but said that could be financed by borrowing with government bonds and paid for over time.

Keohokalole will review Anderson’s appointment and has questions about his experience running a department that’s fallen behind its goals in the past.

“There is an enormous amount of money that he has on hand to initiate development, but there’s a timeline, there’s a clock on their way that he needs to get this money deployed,” the senator said.

But he agrees that the appropriation was intended to generate housing as quickly as possible and said he thinks Anderson’s experience on the City Council with development issues will be valuable.

Anderson, meanwhile, denies his new job is a political favor.

“I went through the interview process like any other candidate, however many of them there were,” Anderson said. “And this governor found that I had the right experience with planning, land use involvement in the Hawaiian community and living in a Hawaiian community behind me.”

Anderson said he and the governor are already brainstorming ways to quickly build new, acquire old, and even buy into developing housing projects.

“We’re looking at the possibility of Koa Ridge, we’re looking at the possibility of Hoopili, and even talking to some of these developers,” he said.

“These are outside the box thinking ideas, I get that, but this is cash that we have to spend.”

Danner said she supports Anderson’s nomination, replacing William Aila with whom homesteaders had some conflicts. She said she is confident Green’s administration will change Aila’s plan.

“So that Hawaiians aren’t waiting. And hoping that we can transition that hope into action, we can transition that action into homes,” Danner said.

Anderson’s appointment will require senate confirmation.

He said he plans to immediately begin traveling across the state to meet all Homelands communities in the next 90 days, beginning this Sunday in Keaukaha on Hawaii Island.