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Nonprofit Provides Funding for Hawaiian Homesteads

October 19, 2018, 10:12 AM HST · Updated October 19, 10:12 AM
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The nonprofit Homestead Housing Authority (HHA) opened a homestead loan fund to increase the amount of capital available to Native Hawaiians for housing and economic development on trust lands.

Founded in 2009, the HHA enables Native Hawaiian beneficiaries of the federal Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (HHCA) to implement solutions in housing and economic development on their own lands.

“Since its founding, the HHA has led homestead-based development in creating jobs by building facilities like a certified kitchen, an open-air marketplace, an enterprise center,” said HHA Board Chair Iwalani McBrayer, a homesteader from Kaupea on O‘ahu. “On the housing side of our shop, we’ve built single-family homes for low-income beneficiaries, and are now focused on rental projects from four-plex units to a 50-unit project, plus a tiny home ADU [accessory dwelling unit] product.”

Access to capital on trust lands in Hawaiʻi can be challenging, just as it is in other tribal trust land communities on the continent and Alaska. To address this critical area of capital flowing to Hawaiian Home Lands, HHA updated its strategic plan and embraced the challenge of access to capital on the trust lands of native Hawaiians.

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“The board adopted a directive to open the flow of capital by launching a Homestead Loan Fund specifically focused on our mission on our native Hawaiian trust lands located in every county in the state,” said Robin Puanani Danner, HHA CEO. “Our first capital products will laser in on the needs of our farmers, ranchers and artists, all three of which require unique and specialized lending structures. We have standing partnerships with other organizations on the access to capital for our housing projects.”

Like many community development organizations, HHA does its work by connecting affordable housing to economic development.

“We can’t just do housing in our communities,” McBrayer stressed. “We must support job creation, and micro-business prosperity, too. The ability for families to be successful in owning a home or renting is directly tied to jobs and economic development, and for sure our families in farming and ranching should not be over-looked. Family farms and ranching are micro businesses that can make a big difference in the homestead prosperity equation.”

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The Homestead Loan Fund will hire its first loan fund staff position by the end of 2018 and adopt its capital policies and procedures, as well as partner agreements with other loan fund organizations locally and nationally. It is an emerging Native Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), eligible to apply for certification under the U.S. Treasury Department CDFI Fund program.

“Partnerships are a best practice in serving our people,” Danner said. “The need for capital in our homesteads is far greater than the capacity of any one organization, we simply must collaborate to bring capital to the agricultural, housing and micro-enterprise needs of our trust land communities.”

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