OHA, DHHL form a valuable partnership for mutual gain
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs will grant as much as $90 million to help the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands put people in homes.
A plan to financially aid the state agency that provides homes for Hawaiians fits the Office of Hawaiian Affairs' broad mission of improving the lives and protecting the culture of its beneficiaries.
The grant also will augment the goal of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to be self-sustaining. The partnership between OHA and DHHL anticipates the kind of cooperative efforts that will be necessary should the Akaka Bill receive approval in Washington.
OHA has approved as much as $90 million in grants to help the department finance infrastructure such as sewers, water systems and roads for housing development and to build homes for some of the 20,000 Hawaiians who have been waiting for homesteads for years.
The funding will be distributed at $3 million a year for 30 years to pay debt service on revenue bonds, which was authorized for DHHL housing projects by the state Legislature this year. The department will take out $40 million in bonds to finance its 2008-2009 construction budget for about 400 to 500 families to build homes in the next 12 to 18 months.
The money comes at a time when state revenues are shrinking and just a few years from when the department's allocations from a settlement will be terminated. Though it still generates about $12 million annually from commercial leases of its land holdings, mostly from shopping centers on the Big Island and in Kapolei, DHHL needed a firm source of funds to meet its goal of building 1,000 homes a year.
The Hawaiian Home Lands Commission was created by federal law through which some 200,000 acres of land were to be leased for homesteads at $1 a year to people with at least 50 percent Hawaiian blood. OHA, established by the state Constitution, has a broader constituency.
Though both have largely common beneficiaries, they sometimes come into conflict. A proposed agreement between the state and OHA for payment for ceded land revenues was rejected by lawmakers during the last session, in part, because of objections from Hawaiians who thought OHA was extending benefits too widely. The partnership could help bring Hawaiian groups closer and smooth out differences.
Non-Hawaiians also stand to gain through the partnership. Financing will help the state's economy through construction work for the projects across the islands and bolster surrounding communities as well.
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