By Sonia Isotov
Congresswomen Mazie K. Hirono and Colleen Hanabusa, along with Alaska Congressman Don Young, yesterday introduced a bill to continue programs providing housing assistance for low-income Native Hawaiian families.
Bill H.R. 2648, known as the Hawaiian Homeownership Opportunity Act of 2011, will also expand the State of Hawaii’s Department of Hawaiian Homeland’s access to loan guarantees.
“This type of federal support helps Native Hawaiians fulfill their dreams of owning a home by providing home loans or helping with a down payment,” said Congresswoman Hirono, in a written statement. “It also provides loans to help families rehabilitate homes that have fallen into disrepair.
“The Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant program helps fulfill a trust obligation this Congress created in 1920 that recognized it was necessary to return Native Hawaiians to the land in order to preserve their culture, their tradition and values,” said Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa. “This bipartisan program helps build affordable homes and provides eligible, low-income Native Hawaiian families with housing opportunities.”
The Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA) passed in 1996 and reauthorized a system of housing assistance provided to tribes by HUD through the Indian Housing Block Grant program. This program provides funds directly to tribes for housing services as determined by the tribes themselves.
Four years later, the Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant was established under NAHASDA to help another indigenous people, the Native Hawaiians. Funds for this grant are administered by the State of Hawaii Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.
“The block grant program has been an incredible resource for our Native Hawaiian beneficiaries,” said Hawaiian Homes Commission Chairman Alapaki Nahale-a. “More than 6,000 families have received home buyer education through our Home Ownership Assistance Program (HOAP) program and the department has developed hundreds of new home sites since this program was created by Congress in 2000.”