KAILUA-KONA — The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands this year plans to award handful of vacant lots and start construction on more than a hundred homes for beneficiaries at the Villages of Laiopua in Kealakehe.
By mid-year, the department hopes to begin building homes on 118 lots in the first phase of Village 4, known as Akau, said Jeffrey Fujimoto, an engineer with the DHHL’s Land Development Division. Some $5 million in DHHL trust funds have been committed to the project, though the actual startup is dependent on the sale of low-income tax credits by housing developer Ikaika Ohana.
The 118 homes would be part of the department’s rent with the option to purchase (RWOTP) program, he said. The hope is to have them available to Native Hawaiian beneficiaries in 2021.
“(The program) provides affordable single-family rental housing to families earning less than 60% of Area Median Income. Qualified renters are provided an option to purchase the home after a 15-year rental compliance period,” said Fujimoto. “The buyer would then be awarded a 99-year residential homestead lease.”
Fujimoto provided the update Wednesday via a development status report to the state Land Use Commission during a meeting of the group at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority’s Hale Iako building.
“Many Hawaiians, including myself, are critical of Hawaiian Homelands,” Commissioner Dawn Chang said after Fujimoto’s presentation. “I’m extremely encouraged by the options you’re offering and the extent of what you’re developing.”
Also this year, the department will award 10 vacant lots in Village 5 to beneficiaries, Fujimoto informed the commissioners. Village 5 is partially constructed with 45 turnkey lots completed in 2012 followed by 16 single-family homes in 2017.
The department also plans 45 single-family lots in Village 5 to be part of the rent with the option to purchase program under developer Ikaika Ohana.
Following the completion of Village 4 Akau, DHHL hopes to have 125 single-family lots completed in the second phase of Village 4, known as Hema, in 2021.
However, work is being held up as the department needs to find a couple dozen more water credits as just 101 have been secured.
“We’re trying to get more water — we’re short 24 water credits that we’re trying to get or trying to get a new source of water,” Fujimoto said. “And, we’re working with the county to see if we can get 24 extra water credits.”
Some $2.76 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture funds was previously allocated for water, sewer and storm water improvements there. Fujimoto said the DHHL is in the “pre-final stage” of getting bids out.
Construction is anticipated to cost $13.4 million.
“We are still working a budget for that,” Fujimoto said.
As for future development, the department is looking at Villages 1 and 2, but completion of either is dependent on funding. Villages 1 and 2 would be situated on 49 acres each with each having 260 lots.
The Villages at Laiopua, a master-planned community, was first announced in 1986 as a state Housing Finance and Community Development Corporation master-planned community project that would offer market rate and affordable housing, according to West Hawaii Today archives. In 1994, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs sued the state over a dispute regarding the use of ceded lands for public assistance housing projects.
Unable to reach a settlement, the state eventually transferred the acreage to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands for the Lai Opua homestead in 1997. The first subdivision, Village 3, was completed in 1999-2000.
The project includes 572 acres of Department of Hawaiian Home Lands land and an additional 408 acres owned by various landowners.
As of Dec. 31, 2018, nearly 5,700 beneficiaries were on the applicant waiting list for residences on Hawaii Island, according to the department.