One of the most critical needs facing the Hawaiian community, and Hawai‘i at large, is affordable housing. Recognizing this, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs has invested more than $40 million over the past eight years to help build homes, offer emergency financial assistance and help low-income ‘ohana move into rentals and become homeowners.

OHA’s programmatic grants represent one way the agency is able to provide opportunities to Native Hawaiians who want to raise their earning potential and have more housing options. In its current two year grant cycle, OHA has awarded $2 million to support income and housing stabilization programs. These grantees help beneficiaries with their housing needs at several stages and support young adults coming out of foster care, mothers transitioning from prison, DHHL leaseholders who need assistance with building a home and current and prospective Hawaiian homeowners who want to protect their investments. These programmatic grantees are Hawaiian Community Assets; Nānākuli Housing Corporation; Effective Planning and Innovative Communication, Inc. (EPIC); Habitat for Humanity Maui and the Young Women’s Christian Association of O‘ahu. They provided Ka Wai Ola with snapshots of OHA’s grants in action.

Photo: Shaila Taifane and her son
Shaila Taifane and her son in their new home, thanks to Hawaiian Community Assets’ housing program, which has helped Native Hawaiians get into homes. – Photo: Sterling Wong


Hawaiian Community Assets

Shalia Taifane and her then 5-year-old son had been staying in a domestic violence shelter and struggling with homelessness when Taifane sought assistance from Hawaiian Community Assets. The housing program taught the single mother how to budget her income, grow her savings and build credit. Within seven months, Taifane and her son moved into their own rental home. “The odds were against us. I was in defense mode, because I knew that if I failed, I would be failing my child,” she said. “They helped me pick up the pieces of my life.” (Read the full story in the August 2017 issue of Ka Wai Ola.)

Habitat for Humanity Maui

Photo: Varna Nakihei, Sophie Lee
Habitat Homeowner Varna Nakihei works with Family Services Manager Sophie Lee during a personalized credit counseling and budgeting session. – Photo: Habitat for Humanity

Varna Nakihei had been running a nonprofit residential alcohol and drug treatment program on Moloka‘i until she relocated to Maui to take a job on Kaho‘olawe. On Maui, she couldn’t afford rent, forcing her and her grandchildren to stay with friends and family for a year. Habitat for Humanity Maui, a nonprofit that helps build decent dwellings and renovate substandard housing, was able to help Nakihei move into a condominium at Harbor Lights. While she’d initially been reluctant to seek help, she now says it’s the best thing that ever happened to her. “I’m so glad I stopped because when I did, the doors just flew open for me,” she said. (Read the full story in the May 2018 issue of Ka Wai Ola.)


Nānākuli Housing Corporation’s Road to Sustainable Living Program

Patrick Cullen, a single young man from Honolulu, registered and attended a Road to Sustainable Living workshop after his mother told him about an advertisement she had seen. Cullen had inherited an agriculture lot lease from his grandmother in DHHL’s Waiahole Homestead, and he wanted to build a three bedroom, two bathroom home. Nānākuli Housing Corporation, a nonprofit offering financial and homeownership training, helped Cullen develop an action plan to reach his goal within two years.

Kylie Kaeo received a vacant lot lease from her parents in DHHL’s Nānākuli homestead, where she wanted to build a four bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom home for herself, her fiance Kekua Flood and his three sons. A past participant of the Road to Sustainable Living Program, Kaeo re-enrolled and was put on a fast track to homeownership, and approval of a USDA direct construction loan to build her home.


Goodwill Industries Hawai‘i

Kuulei Kalani and her daughter Stephanie Amina came in together to Goodwill Industries Hawai‘i-Office of Hawaiian Affairs for assistance after relocating to Hilo from Waimea for better opportunities. They were looking for encouragement and for support in their employment and career journey. Goodwill sent them to training to become certified nursing assistants and they successfully completed their course. Both received CNA positions at Metrocare and have started work are earning $11 an hour, working 20 or more hours a week. Both will continue to study for their CNA licensure together and apply for promotions and additional private care home work as CNAs.

Henry Chu-Hing and Victorkylle Martin both had CDL permits but could not afford tuition to obtain their CDL training. With tuition support from Goodwill, both passed their training course and obtained their CDL class A licensure. As Martin pursued commerical driving positions, Chu-Hing was hired by Roberts Hawaii, earning $19 an hour, working 20 hours a week.

When Gagelyn Davis came to Goodwill, she was employed by Ross Dress For Less working 12 hours a week at a hourly wage of $9.25. Gagelyn was living with family and looking toward having a better life for her and her son, so she wanted to take up medical assistant training. Goodwill Industries Hawai‘i sent her to training, and she earned her medical assistant certificate. Today, Gagelyn is employed full time, earning $11.30 an hour, which allowed her to move into her own apartment.