Maui News

Department of Hawaiian Home Land’s Beneficiary Survey Finds Applicants Increased 9% Since 2014

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Photo Credit: The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL).

The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands’s 2020 Beneficiary Survey revealed that despite thousands of awards since the last survey was conducted in 2014, the number of unduplicated applicants has increased by 9 percent.

The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) has been committed to meeting the land and housing needs of the Hawaiian community for nearly 100 years.

The study, through SMS Research, utilized two self-administered surveys aimed to provide statistically reliable data and assess the current condition and needs of lessees and waiting list applicants as of August 2020.

“These survey results validate much of what the Department has heard in meeting with the beneficiary community,” said Tyler Iokepa Gomes, DHHL’s Deputy to the Chair. “These confirmed results fuel our push to develop creative solutions, both in development and in funding.”

The Department continues to expand its list of affordable housing products, including multi-family units, affordable rentals, subsistence agriculture lots and vacant lots with infrastructure.

Major Findings

Based on applicants’ indicated preferences, a single-family home that is move-in ready was the most desired product. However, responses show that some may not be able to financially qualify. Oʻahu continues to be the most sought-after location for applicants with more than 50 percent listing it as their first choice for a Homestead Award.

DHHL applicants earning less than 80 percent of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Area Median Income (AMI) increased in 2020. In 2014, 45 percent of applicants were classified as below the 80 percent HUD AMI. In 2020, this number increased to 51 percent.

The Lessee Study found that the demographic has remained relatively consistent since the 2014 survey. The age distribution among lessees, as well as the median age of 62 years, remained the same in 2020 as in 2014. Similarly, the average household size has been at four individuals for more than a decade.

According to survey results, the median household income among lessee households has increased significantly, climbing from $48,731 in 2008 to $59,600 in 2014 and $74,954 in 2020. In line with the increase in median household income, the present study found that a slightly smaller proportion of lessees are currently below the HUD 80 percent of AMI guide than in 2014.

In addition, the Lessee Survey also evaluated residents’ perceptions concerning community safety, community involvement and future plans. The results showed that lessees generally feel safer in their homestead communities and feel a sense of unity with other lessees.

Homestead community members typically rated their communities favorably and do not consider moving away. Many survey takers noted that they hope future generations will continue living on homestead land. Responses did reveal a potential opportunity to increase community involvement among lessees.

To view survey results in full, visit


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