Hawaii to Get $12.7M for Native Hawaiian Affordable Housing

July 17, 2012, 1:38 PM HST · Updated July 18, 8:52 AM
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File photo, Waiohuli Hawaiian homes on Maui.

By Wendy Osher

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development today announced the award of $12.7 million in funding for affordable housing for low-income native Hawaiian families.

Since the program began in 2002, HUD’s Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant, or NHHBG, has partnered with the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to build, acquire, and rehabilitate more than 460 housing units.

In addition, NHHBG-funded programs have offered a variety of housing counseling services, as well as do-it-yourself home repair training to more than 800 low-income native Hawaiian families.

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“I’m extremely proud of our close association with the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands over these past 10 years,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “As our housing markets continue to recover, this grant will make a difference in the lives of hundreds of families struggling to find decent and affordable housing to live. HUD continues its support for reauthorization of the NHHBG program to ensure that affordable housing opportunities will continue to be provided to native Hawaiian families into the future,” he said.

“It is our kuleana as a country to honor our commitments to the native Hawaiian community. This means ensuring native Hawaiian families have the opportunity to pursue dreams of owning a home and recognizing the challenges low-income families face in their search for an affordable place to live,” said Congresswoman Mazie Hirono.

US Senator Daniel Inouye said:

“The native Hawaiian people and their culture are the foundation for the way of life we enjoy in Hawaii. They have given the great gift of aloha to all who have come to Hawaii’s shores, their homeland, over the centuries. Unfortunately, like so many in this country, there are those in the native Hawaiian community who have difficulty accessing affordable housing and taking the steps necessary to realize home ownership. I would like to thank Secretary Donovan and the administration for helping the Department of Hawaiian Homelands fulfill their critical mission of providing shelter for native Hawaiian families.”

According to its annual housing plan, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) will use the funds for the following initiatives:

  • Increase the affordable housing inventory on Hawaiian home lands through infrastructure development and house construction including sweat equity projects.
  • Reduce the purchase price of housing by providing direct assistance to eligible families through down payment assistance, principal reduction subsidies, low and no interest rate loans, and matching funds for Individual Development Accounts.
  • Reduce the number of homes occupied by eligible families that are in need of repair or replacement to relieve substandard living conditions, overcrowding, and to improve energy efficiency through low and no interest loans and grants for home rehabilitation.
  • Increase alternative energy resources or programs that will benefit eligible families as a means to reduce housing costs through loans and grants to install energy efficient devices including solar water heating, photovoltaic panels, etc.
  • Increase community access to resources that will address public safety needs, organizational needs, and eligible model activities; including but not limited to safety enhancements, organizational support, community policing, and model activities that incorporate educational, cultural, and recreational activities for affordable housing residents.
  • Increase access to educational or training programs that assist eligible native Hawaiian families with financial literacy education and counseling, homebuyer education, home maintenance, and foreclosure prevention.
  • Ensure adequate administrative capacity for DHHL to implement and monitor the NHHBG program.

“Historically, the wait for property on Hawaiian home lands for many native Hawaiian families has been filled with frustration and disappointment,” Congresswoman Hirono added.

On April 13, Senator Daniel Akaka, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, held a legislative field hearing on the Hawaiian Homeownership Opportunity Act.  Sen. Inouye introduced the measure that would extend housing assistance for Native Americans and loan guarantees for native Hawaiian housing through FY2016.

Congresswoman Hirono, who introduced the companion bill in the US House said, “Testifying at a US Senate Indian Affairs Committee field hearing this past April, we as members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation reaffirmed our commitment to the native Hawaiian community. It is our duty to make sure Congress understands and fulfills its obligations. This includes working to pass a measure that extends this block grant program for an additional four years,” said Congresswoman Hirono.

Passed by Congress in 1996, the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act reauthorized a system of housing assistance provided to tribes by HUD through the Indian Housing Block Grant program.

In 2000, the Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant was established to help native Hawaiians, with funds for the grant administered by the State of Hawaii Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

***Supporting information courtesy HUD and Office of Congresswoman Mazie Hirono.

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