DHHL Publishes $600 Million Act 279 Plan

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A plan to spend $600 million to address the housing needs of native Hawaiians was submitted to the Hawaiʻi State Legislature by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) in early December 2022.

Signed into law by Gov. Ige on July 11, 2022, Act 279 set aside a historic allocation of $600 million for DHHL. It required the agency to submit a strategic plan, including findings, recommendations, and any proposed legislation, to the legislature by Dec. 10, 2022.

On May 16, 2022, a Permitted Interaction Group of the Hawaiian Homes Commission (HHC) was established to work with DHHL staff to receive guidance from counsel on various topics related to Act 279 and deliberate on elements to be included in a final strategic plan. Committee members included Commissioners Pauline Namuʻo, Russell Kaupu, Dennis Neves, Chair Ailā, and critical DHHL staff.

The Committee held five meetings, and a strategic approach with comments from the entire Commission was incorporated into a final plan that DHHL presented to HHC at its November 2022 regular meeting.

Three fundamental policy considerations guide the commission-approved strategy:

  1. The majority of resources provided under Act 279 should go to homeownership activities rather than rental activities.
  2. Resources provided for homeownership activities should prioritize new homestead lot development.

Prioritization of homestead lot development projects should be based upon:

  • Timing/position in DHHL’s production pipeline
  • Priority areas for new homestead development identified in DHHL island plans and waitlist demand on each island by applicants.

The policy considerations allow DHHL flexibility to adjust as needed and seek out opportunities and innovative solutions to meet the needs of the beneficiary community.

Act 279 also instructed DHHL to follow the preferences reflected in the Department’s 2020 Beneficiaries Study Applicant Report. Notably, the report stated that 76% of individuals on DHHL’s Waiting List prefer a homestead lot with a single-family home or a vacant lot with utilities to build a house. Just 16% said they would prefer to rent or rent-to-own a single-family home, duplex, apartment, or townhouse, with the option to buy in the future.

The planning, design, engineering, permitting, and construction of new homestead lots have traditionally been phased in by DHHL as funding became available. Act 279’s one-time infusion of capital will allow DHHL to significantly expedite this process and develop 20 new DHHL subdivisions throughout the state.

Beneficiaries will have the opportunity to either build a house suitable to their finances and needs or, in some cases, purchase an affordable home from a developer contracted by DHHL.

The Department’s plan leverages all its resources and forecasts infrastructure development for over 2,700 new homestead lots statewide, the acquisition of new land, new potable water resources, and individual assistance programs, including down-payment assistance for new lessees and rental assistance.

Applicants on the DHHL waiting list will be informed about upcoming lot offerings and available services through U.S. Postal Service mail. Beneficiaries are encouraged to contact DHHL to confirm their correct and most recent mailing addresses are on file.

To view the Act 279 plan, visit dhhl.hawaii.gov/act279.