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"At a time when the cost of housing is unreasonable, we will be providing people who clearly are in many cases in a rental situation into a position of home ownership," department Director Micah Kane said yesterday.
The four parcels were transferred from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Housing and Community Development Corporation of Hawaii. Most of the land came from state housing projects on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island started during the Waihee administration.
The state had previously transferred some property from Kapolei on Oahu and Laiopua on the Big Island to Hawaiian Homes. However, further transfers of land from those projects and from Leialii on Maui were stalled because of a 1994 Office of Hawaiian Affairs lawsuit challenging the sale of ceded or former crown lands.
The lawsuit is on appeal at the Hawaii Supreme Court. But OHA agreed to remove the property from its lawsuit to allow the transfer.
"This does not end the appeal to the Supreme Court because there are significant other land acreage, Leialii especially," said Haunani Apoliona, OHA board chairwoman. "The resolution of issues has not been completed."
And OHA's action does not mean the property is not subject to future court action, said William Burgess, the attorney in a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of entitlement programs for native Hawaiians. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments in the case in November.
The properties being transferred are the Villages of Laiopua, except for villages 9 and 10, in Kona on the Big Island; the Villages of Leialii 1A and 1B in Lahaina; Village 8 in Kapolei on Oahu; and 750 acres in Waiahole Valley in Windward Oahu.
Kane said the Villages of Laiopua has the potential for about 3,000 housing units, while Leialii on Maui and Village 8 in Kapolei have 304 and 326 potential units, respectively.
As part of the transfer agreement, Hawaiian Homes will pay $2.2 million a year for 15 years to reimburse the housing agency for some infrastructure costs at the Maui and Big Island properties.
"Our board had no difficulty making this decision. We feel that our mission, which is statewide, to provide affordable housing, covers all the people that live in Hawaii. And in fact we see no difference between Hawaiians or others," said Stephanie Aveiro, housing agency executive director.
More than 750 acres in Waiahole is included in the transfer. Kane said his department does not intend to develop the land, but will take over management of the leases from Housing and Community Development Corporation of Hawaii.
Hawaiian Homes is trying to "clean up" its waiting list of 20,000 homestead applicants, including 12,000 residential applicants, Kane said. The department hopes to award 6,000 homes or lots over the next five years, which compares with the 7,200 leases awarded in the department's history, he said.
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