State agency to aid in down payments for Native Hawaiians

HONOLULU — The state agency that helps administer land for Native Hawaiians has approved a new program that will provide a small number of Native residents with down-payment assistance.

The new program approved on Monday by the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands would provide funds for some on a waitlist who are looking to buy homes that are not within established homesteading communities on the island of Oahu.

The state agency will provide up to $1.5 million for the down payment program.

The approval is the first time the state agency has invested in housing outside a 317-square-mile (821-square-kilometer) area Congress authorized for Native Hawaiians in 1921, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported. The state agency has been tasked with managing the land trust since.

The waitlist for houses under the trust on Oahu is as high as 11,000 people. The program is intended to address the growing waitlist on an island with a great demand for housing but where the state agency has the least amount of land.

The state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands has faced issues keeping up with demand in past years. The Star-Advertiser also reported that the agency’s focus on developing expensive homes in large subdivisions have priced out many low-income Native Hawaiians and has used much of the remaining land the trust owns on Oahu.

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