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 Ailā 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.
"Like a county, DHHL maintains and repairs existing infrastructure. For example, roads, facilities maintenance, sewer emergencies and repairs, etc.," said Ailā.
Ailā gave the example of a multi-million dollar sewer project in the Papakōlea homestead community.
"The reality is we couldn’t on our own replace all of the sewer lines in Papakōlea, which is a $60 million job, when we get allocated $25 million a year statewide," says Ailā.
DHHL currently gets about $25 million a year for capital improvements and $18 million for operations.
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.
What does DHHL need to do then to maintain roads and sewers in Papakōlea and elsewhere?
"It means we have to convince the Legislature to continue or increase the funding that we’re getting now," Ailā said.
Ailā will be making his case next before the House Committees on Hawaiian Affairs and Finance on Thursday.