Photo: Cedric DuarteDepartment of Hawaiian Home Lands beneficiaries will soon have another housing option in urban Honolulu. New real estate was recently added to the Department’s O‘ahu inventory with the acquisition of three parcels from Kamehameha Schools. The purchase was approved by the Hawaiian Homes Commission in January and aligns with DHHL’s goal to use creativity to meet the demands of its wait list.

Department of Hawaiian Home LandsThe newly acquired properties include approximately one acre in the densely populated Mō‘ili‘ili district, where two existing apartment buildings sit with a total of 31 units. The Department intends to rehabilitate and deploy the units as affordable rentals to applicants on the wait list under newly adopted rules for rentals on Hawaiian Home Lands. The long-term plan for the parcels between Isenberg and Coolidge streets will be to construct a high rise apartment building.

HHC Chair William J. Ailā, Jr. says the inspiration for the purchase stems from a large demand for residential opportunities on O‘ahu and as a result of the Department’s future plans for the area, which include the development of the agency’s first high rise project at 820 Isenberg Street, the former Bowl-O-Drome location. A developer for the project is anticipated to be announced in March.

Funding for the new acquisition originates from a donation of land to DHHL from Castle & Cooke Hawaiʻi in Wahiawā on O‘ahu. These properties came with reservations and covenants and were not considered available lands as defined in Section 203 of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920, as amended. In an effort to provide financial resources to the Department to purchase additional land on O‘ahu while also increasing the inventory of state lands available for agricultural activities, a $6.9 million appropriation was set aside for the agency. These funds made the Mō‘ili‘ili purchase possible.

DHHL’s effort to create more opportunities for beneficiaries goes beyond the addition of rentals. The Department has once again begun to offer vacant lots, an approach that provides families with the flexibility to build a home suitable to their needs while having the needed infrastructure in place. In 2019, the Department offered several vacant lots on Lāna‘i and O‘ahu, as well as turn-key lots on O‘ahu. In its que, DHHL is readying subsistence agriculture lots in Honomū on Hawai‘i Island and in Waimānalo on O‘ahu. Kuleana lands and Rent-With-Option-To-Purchase products also live in the Department’s diversified lot offering portfolio.

Chair Aila has noted that creativity and flexibility are tools his administration will use to fulfill Kūhiō’s vision. The recent land purchase in Mō‘ili‘ili is just the latest.