Native Hawaiians concerned DHHL housing development dragging

  • A photo from 2016 show roads constructed for Phase One of Laiopua Village 4. Construction on homes in the area has yet to commence. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — Mauka of Ane Keohokalole Highway in West Hawaii, there sits an expansive parcel of empty land ready to birth the sights and sounds of a bustling Native neighborhood.

The Department of Hawaiian Homelands issued a request for proposal (RFP) in February of 2016 to develop 163 single-family lots across two sections of the Villages of Laiopua Hawaiian home lands properties. The project includes a rent-to-own program wherein residents make rental payments that are applied toward their mortgages interest-free and then have the option to purchase those mortgages after 15 years.


The complexities of specialized development projects often result in unforeseen difficulties and delays, but after almost three years, prospective residents of the DHHL affordable housing project are frustrated and asking questions about the hold-ups keeping them from starting new lives on their ancestral lands.

“They’ve had three years to get a developer in there and we’re just disappointed in the process,” said Bo Kahui, executive director for Laiopua 2020 and the board director of the Villages of Laiopua Homesteaders Association. “I think the Native Hawaiian community begins to become very discouraged about why this takes so long.”

DHHL has selected a developer, Ikaika Ohana, which is working in concert with Urban Housing Communities in that role. But a factor in the overall length of the process may have something to do with how long it took to officially award the contract.

According to the RFP, accessible at, the estimated contract award date was May of 2016. James Rock is a senior development manager with Urban Housing Communities and is currently working on the development agreement for the project. He said he believed his company’s partner in the venture, Ikaika Ohana, was officially awarded the contract sometime in the third quarter of 2017.

Kahui said he spoke to Stewart Matsunaga, listed on the RFP as master-planned community development manager with the DHHL Land Development Division, about the housing project’s status at a meeting in Hilo in September. Kahui recalled part of Matsunaga’s explanation for the current operational timeline was that the “RFP had gone back and forth.”

As to what issues may have stalled the awarding of the contract, or if it was in fact stalled, Matsunaga and the DHHL communications department did not return several requests for comment by press time Friday.

Rock said that the next major milestone before construction can begin is striking a development agreement with DHHL, which he described as more complicated in this case because of the development’s size and specific conditions that have to be met — one of which is navigating federal fair housing guidelines because of such a narrowly targeted tenant base of only Native Hawaiians.

He added it’s hard to answer when the development agreement will be completed but said, “We are engaged daily on the matter.”

The next major milestone before construction can begin would be the accumulation of all the necessary funding resources. As to the various funding options it plans to pursue and what those choices would mean for construction timelines, Matsunaga and the DHHL also did not return several requests for comment.

The site has some advantages toward speedier construction once it actually does commence. Rock said namely that DHHL has already installed important infrastructure — roads and certain water, sewer and electrical backbones — at the sites.

Rock added past experiences would indicate a 14-18 month rough timeline for similar construction of apartments. However, more work tends to accompany a project like that at the Villages of Laiopua because structures are single-family homes.

Kahui said his office continues to receive inquiries from restless Native Hawaiians, which he believes represent a significant portion of the community in West Hawaii.

According to census data available at, state population estimates include an estimate that 35.3 percent of Hawaii County’s population was comprised of “Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders, race alone or with other races” as of July, 2017.

To qualify for entrance into the Villages of Laiopua Hawaiian home lands project, applicants must be at least 50 percent Native Hawaiian. Kahui said that as of June 30, 2016, there were a total of 5,729 residential applications filed by Native Hawaiians with the DHHL on Hawaii Island alone.


His point was that speeding up the development of 118 units in Laiopua Village 4 and the accompanying 45 units in Village 5 would not only appease an anxious portion of the Native Hawaiian community, but that it would free up other sources of affordable housing for different demographics also in need of such accommodations.

“If we assist Native Hawaiians into these housing programs then that offers opportunities for other stakeholders in the community to find housing conducted by the state, federal and county governments,” Kahui said.

  1. Graystash November 19, 2018 1:42 am

    Not to worry, They will totally Screw it up !!

  2. diverdave November 19, 2018 3:11 am

    “on their ancestral lands”?
    These people’s ancestors never owned this area of land.

    “35.3 percent of Hawaii County’s population was comprised of “Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders, race alone or with other races” as of July, 2017.”
    Once again, since the program was based on Prince Kuhio’s claim that it would “save a dying race” and it is quite obvious that they are NOT, then can someone tell me why this race based program is still in place?

    1. Buds4All November 19, 2018 4:49 am

      Odd “Race Based” seem a bit exclusive and not politically correct.

      1. reply to November 19, 2018 7:27 pm

        I thought it is illegal to discriminate based on race?!!!….. Why the Hawaiian politicians practice discrimination? Aren’t all races equal before the law? Why are the whites good just to pay taxes and other races just to benefit? Aren’t all citizens supposed to be treated the same based on the constitution? I guess some are more equal than others. Sad!

  3. Buds4All November 19, 2018 4:53 am

    So funny I was watching the World Surfing Tour “Volcom Pro” @ Pipe yesterday and noticed that two individuals in the finals had Hawaiian Flags next to their names and then there was one from USA and then another non-us country. It made me stop to think why are these people not recognized as us citizens? People in the state HI including our BI are US citizens but yet there is this need to exclude and shame people of non Hawaiian decent. Exclusionary if you will humor me. It seems like the dor only swings one way these days.

    1. diverdave November 19, 2018 6:41 am

      Yes it seems to me that this “program” should be challenged in court. It is most definitely unconstitutional on so many levels.

      1. Ken Conklin November 19, 2018 7:10 am

        The Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920 (passed in 1921) is unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment equal protection clause. OHA and DHHL are also unconstitutional, along with about a thousand government-funded racial entitlement programs for benefit of “Native Hawaiians” exclusively. There have been several lawsuits seeking to take them down, but those were dismissed on technicalities (“standing” and “political question”). Hopefully some plaintiffs and lawyers can be found to take up the fight — they will need plenty of money to fight the wealthy, powerful, politically connected racist groups (OHA has over $600 Million in assets). They could have been abolished in a state Constitutional Convention, but the con-con was defeated in this month’s election so lawsuits are the only way to get the job done until the con-con question comes on the ballot 10 years from now.

        1. diverdave November 19, 2018 7:14 am

          Yes it would seem all it would take is a non-Polynesian-Hawaiian to apply for a spot and be turned down because they were not the “right” race, and then they could sue for discrimination.

    2. JTTRI November 19, 2018 10:07 am

      You do not have the magic blood please be quite and pay up.

      1. Buds4All November 20, 2018 4:38 am

        Is this Crazy Mazie Hirono?

  4. Buds4All November 19, 2018 4:55 am

    Oh Dang it, I knew I should have not thrown that Costco chicken bone out the window on the way home. Now look what it has done!

  5. KonaDude November 19, 2018 5:31 am

    Ask TMT how long it takes to get something built ?? Karma is a B%$#$!!!

  6. diverdave November 19, 2018 6:34 am

    “The project includes a rent-to-own program wherein residents make rental
    payments that are applied toward their mortgages interest-free and then
    have the option to purchase those mortgages after 15 years.”
    So if they don’t make their rental payments they will be evicted? Not on your life. And does this also mean that DHHL will be paying their property taxes and upkeep? Yep.

    1. diverdave November 19, 2018 7:04 am

      “U.S. Department of Commerce
      Economics and Statistics Administration, U.S. CENSUS BUREAU
      Issued May 2012, C2010BR-12, The Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander
      Population: 2010
      2010 Census Briefs, By Lindsay Hixson,Bradford B. Hepler, and Myoung Ouk Kim
      According to the 2010 Census, 1.2 million people in the United States
      identified as Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, either alone or in
      combination with one or more other races. The Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific
      Islander population was the race group most likely to report multiple races in
      2010, as more than half (56 percent) reported multiple races. The Native
      Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander population was one of the fastest growing
      race groups between 2000 and 2010.”

  7. 4whatitsworth November 19, 2018 8:43 am

    To be honest I would say give these guys a brake, but it seems like every break they get they use to undermine the United States. Example: Under Obama the secretary of the interior came to Hawaii to discuss granting Native Hawaiians the same status as American Indians and Eskimos. I wish someone would offer me free land and no US taxes! The Hawaiians said no with the crazy idea that the US is going to give all of the islands to the Hawaiians. Then there is that crazy council woman Riggles that just collects her salary and sites war crimes. As Forest Gump said “stupid is as stupid does”.

    1. William Williams December 2, 2018 11:46 am

      They should have took that deal and opened a casino

  8. Graystash November 20, 2018 10:00 am

    The mistake that “Hawaiians” make is believing DHHL give a Crap about them !!

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