Friday, September 7, 2001

OHA logo

OHA invests in
prefab home firm

By Pat Omandam

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs has tentatively agreed to pay $500,000 for a majority share of a proposed local manufactured-housing plant intended to provide more affordable homes for native Hawaiians and others.

"This project could deliver homes to the Hawaiian community at very affordable rates with high quality," said OHA trustee Oswald Stender.

The agency's efforts to partner with others to build homes for Hawaiians have been slow and not cost-effective, Stender said.

The decision marks the first time the 21-year-old state agency has embarked on a for-profit venture -- which OHA can legally do -- in which it hopes to recoup its investment and more, while helping native beneficiaries get new homes.

In the past, OHA's focus has been to assist Hawaiians through various loan, mortgage, grant and other programs.

"This is a viable alternative to traditional and self-help means of developing homes for Hawaiians," said Patti Tancayo, OHA housing programs senior specialist.

Trustees for several years have discussed ways to generate revenue to augment OHA's $325 million trust but have not entered any self-sustaining enterprises until now.

"This is not the single, complete answer, but again it's an effort to get more Hawaiians into houses," OHA Chairwoman Haunani Apoliona said.

A majority of the OHA board yesterday approved giving Quality Homes of the Pacific $500,000 in return for a 50 percent majority share of the company and controlling power on its governing board.

Quality Homes, through partnerships with OHA, Local 368 of the Laborers' International Union (which will get a 25 percent share of the company by providing $250,000) and others, proposes to build prefabricated homes at a warehouse at Campbell Industrial Park.

The effort is spearheaded by attorney Kali Watson, former chairman of the Hawaiian Homes Commission, who serves as chairman of Quality Homes.

Watson emphasizes his goal is to provide quality affordable homes to the nearly 17,000 people on the Hawaiian Home Lands waiting list, homesteaders who have leases but cannot afford to build new homes, and others who may be interested in prefabricated, steel-framed homes.

Although the OHA board has approved the money, trustees still must approve membership and organizational agreements before the money is released.

Trustee Clayton Hee cautioned the board that the venture is not the panacea to the housing problem facing Hawaiians, which he said has more to do with them qualifying for mortgages than home prices.

"Let us not create a situation which this board hasn't thought out," Hee said.

Molokai trustee Colette Machado, the only trustee to vote against the plan, objected because there was no guarantee or identification in the company's business plan that it will build homes for native Hawaiians, even though that is the reason OHA is involved.

Trustee Rowena Akana believes that Quality Homes could boost production if OHA were allowed to access federal funds to build housing for native Hawaiians.

All that is needed, she said, are amendments in a federal bill on native housing now before Congress that would allow OHA, and not just the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, to build homestead housing.

Akana said U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye had promised to help get the amendments approved.

"I do believe Sen. Inouye is a man of his word and will keep his word to OHA and see that those proper amendments are made," Akana said..

Office of Hawaiian Affairs

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