DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
An emotional Barbara Matias wiped away tears of joy yesterday as she was greeted by Gov. Linda Lingle after her name was called for a homestead lease. She had applied on Jan. 18, 1977. Behind is her husband, Robert Matias.
Homestead awards end long wait for lucky few
One Hawaiian homestead is awarded to a woman 57 years after her father applied
The line for a homestead was so long for Aloysius Lincoln that he never saw the end of it.
But yesterday, 57 years after the former Honolulu Gas Co. employee applied for a lease, his daughter claimed the lease awarded for the second phase of a Department of Hawaiian Home Lands project in Kapolei.
"Unfortunately, he died two years ago. He was 87," said Frances Segundo, 60, who was a baby when her father signed up for the program. "However, his legacy goes on, because this award is for our ohana, our family."
About 2,000 people showed up yesterday morning at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center Exhibition Hall, where the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands awarded 250 lots in Phase 2 and Phase 3 of in their Kaupe'a project in Kapolei.
The 52-acre subdivision has 326 lots, 76 of which were awarded in November 2005.
Segundo, a clerk at Maui Community College, said her cousin, Naira Martin, would live in the four-bedroom, three-bathroom house with her daughter, but there would always be room for another relative.
"I'm free from the rent, which is going to be over with," said Martin, 56. The $2,000 she pays each month for rent will now go toward her mortgage. "When the whole family comes from the mainland, Louisiana, they will stay with me. It's a very good feeling."
Gov. Linda Lingle, who was present for yesterday's selection meeting, said the latest awards would help the state's shortage of affordable rentals as new homeowners are able to free up rental homes and apartments.
"Those units now become available for the general public," Lingle said. "It is better for the entire community."
Yesterday's crowd was a fraction of the nearly 20,000 native Hawaiians currently on the homestead waiting list, about half of which are on Oahu, said Lloyd Yonenaka, a spokesman for the Hawaiian Home Lands Department.
Even though more than 1,200 leases have been given out since 2003, the department's waiting list keeps growing, at a pace of about 100 people a month, Yonenaka said.
To qualify, applicants must have at least 50 percent Hawaiian blood and be pre-approved to afford one of the five Kaupe'a models, which range between $238,600 and $296,100 in lots averaging 5,000 square feet. The lease rent for the land under their homes is $1 per year.
The first phase of the Kaupe'a project is expected to be completed by the end of the year, while Phase 2 and Phase 3 should be done in the first and second quarters of 2007, according to the department.
As she signed documents for her new lease yesterday, Vivian Perreira, 71, said she would vacate her Maili home in Waianae -- where she lives with husband, Alfred, her son and his two children -- sometime next year. Perreira said her youngest son, 47-year-old Prince, a refuse truck driver for Rolloffs Hawaii Inc., had to co-sign her application because her Social Security earnings weren't enough for a loan.
After waiting 48 years for her name to be called, Perreira, now in a wheelchair, will lease a four-bedroom home on a corner lot in Kapolei.
"I signed up when I was 23," she said. "I almost gave up, but I left my name on for so long."
The federal government set up the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act in 1921, eventually reserving 200,000 acres statewide to benefit native Hawaiians. But development of land to provide homes has been slow, and many families have been on the waiting list for decades.
Last month the state Supreme Court ruled that 2,700 native Hawaiians can seek monetary damages in a lawsuit against the state for its alleged mismanagement of the Hawaiian Home Lands program.
Not everyone who came yesterday had a happy story to share. Homes went to 250 families, but 750 people qualified for lots, which are awarded on the basis of seniority. People who have qualified and waited the longest are the next in line for a home.
Lee Kogler, 54, who has been researching her genealogy for more than 20 years, had to leave without a lease after arriving at 7 a.m. with her husband, daughter, grandson and two sons.
Kogler turned in her paperwork in 1991. But after marrying and moving to New York, Kogler's application was returned, with the department saying she needed to show the Hawaiian lineage on her father's side. Finally, in 1994, Kogler combed through the bound volumes of records at the state Archives, where she found a Census Bureau report listing her grandmother, Hannah Kaulia, at age 19, living in the house of her father, Samuel, a master carpenter.
Kogler, who is number 7,954 on the wait list for Oahu, said she would never quit trying for a lease.
"It's not a sad day," Kogler said, citing plans by the department to award another 300 lots in Kapolei in October. "I'm still with hope. I've waited a long time for this, and I'm not going to give up."
Star-Bulletin reporter Leila Fujimori contributed to this story.