Creating a Home

Ka Wai Ola


  1. nvi. House, building, institution, lodge, station, hall; to have a house.

Photo: Sylvia HusseyAloha mai kākou,

Growing up in Kohala I don’t remember housing shortages or homelessness being a problem. The people in our community helped each other, and everyone had a place to call home, more often than not in a multi-generation household.

Today, the lack of affordable housing has become a crisis affecting the security, health and well-being of our ʻohana and lāhui. In 2019, Hawaiʻi’s statewide median rent was $2,400/month and the median sale price for a single-family home was about $600,000. It was even worse for Oʻahu residents where the median sale price was $835,000. Our people are being priced out of our homeland. Our lāhui is increasingly unable to meet the housing needs of their ʻohana. And that is a travesty.

To address this problem, new ideas and fresh approaches are needed. Community-based solutions must be both sought and embraced to ensure that the diverse needs and resources of our communities are considered and incorporated.

The value of housing is not just physical. Creating a home means being connecting to one’s land base and cultural roots; and being connected to one’s family and community. A home provides a sense of safety, stability and security, without which it is nearly impossible to realize one’s dreams and aspirations.

The security of a home strengthens the ʻohana, and directly connects us to our moʻomeheu and ʻāina. ʻOhana, moʻomeheu and ʻāina are integral to our existence as kānaka maoli, and that is why they comprise OHA’s strategic foundation. Strong ʻohana makes strong communities; strong communities make for a strong lāhui.

In this issue of Ka Wai Ola we feature the work of a Native Hawaiian non-profit development firm, Hawaiian Community Development Board, who has taken a completely different approach to addressing the affordable housing crisis facing our lāhui. And while their ideas have met with some resistance, they have achieved much success. Now celebrating their 20th year in business, the fruit of their work is making a difference every day for hundreds of Hawaiian families on Oʻahu.

Also in this, our first issue of 2020, we present OHA’s 2019 annual report, OHA’s legislative package for 2020, and the first in a series of three articles on the upcoming Census. We are also excited to share some pictures from our staff tree-planting day last month. Over 100 OHA employees and community members, including Trustees and their aides, gathered on OHA’s land in Wahiawā to plant 1,000 native trees near the historic and sacred Kūkaniloko Birthing Stones. This was part of an effort to restore portions of OHA’s Wahiawā lands to the thriving and robust native forest that existed there a century ago, now decimated by decades of monocrop agriculture.

As we begin 2020, I am optimistic that the ongoing collective efforts of our lāhui to strengthen our ʻohana, perpetuate our moʻomeheu and protect our ʻāina will result in positive change for our people. E holo mua a e hoʻomau kākou. Hauʻoli Makahiki Hou!

Sylvia M. Hussey, Ed.D.
Ka Pouhana/Chief Executive Officer