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Hawaiian Homes Says It Needs $43M to Develop More Lots

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Department of Hawaiian Home Lands
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Home construction in the Hawaiian homestead community of Kumuhau in Waimanalo.

The state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands is asking the Legislature for more than $40 million this year to deliver homestead lots to qualified native Hawaiians.

DHHL Chairman William Ail? Jr. told lawmakers Monday that his agency plans to develop more than 1,300 homestead lots over the next five years. But he says the high cost of developing new lots, including roads and sewers, is competing with another of the department's responsibilities. 

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Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi
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DHHL Chairman William Aila, Jr. briefs lawmakers from the Senate Committees on Ways & Means and Hawaiian Affairs.

"Like a county, DHHL maintains and repairs existing infrastructure. For example, roads, facilities maintenance, sewer emergencies and repairs, etc.," said Ail?.

Ail? gave the example of a multi-million dollar sewer project in the Papak?lea homestead community.

"The reality is we couldn’t on our own replace all of the sewer lines in Papak?lea, which is a $60 million job, when we get allocated $25 million a year statewide," says Ail?.

DHHL currently gets about $25 million a year for capital improvements and $18 million for operations.

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Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi
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DHHL staffers and beneficiaries listen in on the department's budget briefing for the 2020 legislative session.

The agency had asked for $425 million in the coming fiscal year but that amount was reduced in the governor's supplemental budget request to DHHL's current funding.

DHHL is the only state agency guaranteed sufficient state funding for operations under the Hawaii Consitution. But the definition of “sufficient” is still in legal dispute.

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Credit Department of Hawaiian Home Lands
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Department of Hawaiian Home Lands
DHHL headquarters in Kapolei.

What does DHHL need to do then to maintain roads and sewers in Papak?lea and elsewhere?

"It means we have to convince the Legislature to continue or increase the funding that we’re getting now," Ail? said.

Ail? will be making his case next before the House Committees on Hawaiian Affairs and Finance on Thursday. 

DHHL Budget Briefing - Senate WAM & HWN (1-13-20)

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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