Politics and Progress

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Keoni Souza: Trustee At-Large

As I continue to get situated in my role as your OHA Trustee At-Large, I have come to understand the importance that OHA plays in the legislative process. Since the inception of OHA in 1978, OHA and legislators have worked closely together to increase the support systems for Native Hawaiians. We continue to do so today with respect and admiration of each individual serving in public office.

This Legislative session over 3,000 bills were introduced between the Senate and House. Thank you, legislators, for your diligent process of review and questioning.

At OHA, we review bills that specifically name OHA, or that closely affect OHA’s strategic plan efforts https://www.oha.org/strategicplan/. These numbered over 500 bills. Our amazing public policy, advocacy and administrative teams sort through the bills and create a matrix to help us work more efficiently. We closely review bills that will affect our beneficiaries, our funding or development.

As a realtor who has helped other Native Hawaiians try to buy a home, I understand that it is not just the Hawaiians on the DHHL waiting list that need assistance. There are so many more who cannot even qualify for DHHL for whom home ownership is a top priority.

When Hawaiians lack housing, it is difficult to pursue education or other endeavors. Through the Hakuone (Kakaʻako Makai) development, we see both an economic engine toward self-sufficiency and the potential to help address the housing crisis. Please join our Instagram at IG:@hakuonehi and website at www.hakuone.com to support.

In addition to affordable housing for Hawaiians, it is of deep importance that we work closely with our communities. By the time this is published, I will have completed two of my planned island visits (Molokaʻi and Kauaʻi). I will be scheduling visits to the other islands in March and April.

One issue that I have been asked to review has been, “How can OHA help those who need down payment assistance to purchase DHHL property or other housing in Hawaiʻi.” Other issues that have been shared with me are with regard to agricultural support, grants or loans to fix farm equipment or irrigation systems, education, youth sports, and work opportunities. The funding OHA receives from the legislature allows more of these programs to be added for beneficiaries, which is why it’s so important for us to be at the Capitol. One day our vision is that OHA can support itself and drive economic stability for Native Hawaiians.

By visiting you in the community and identifying your concerns more closely, I will be able to make my Board of Trustee decisions carefully, always keeping you in mind.

If you have specific concerns or issues, feel free to contact my office at 808-594-1857 or email me at Trusteesouza@oha.org I look forward to meeting you in the coming months. Aloha and Mahalo!