DHHL moving forward on Villages of La‘i ‘Opua project

  • Infrastructure is in place for Village 4 at Laiopua. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Infrastructure is in place for Village 4 at Laiopua. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Infrastructure is in place for Village 4 at Laiopua. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

Though progress has been sluggish for years, the Department of Hawaiian Homelands’ Villages of La‘i ‘Opua project in Kealakehe is slowly inching toward beginning construction of homes in Village 4.

A myriad of delays have pushed back phase 1 of construction in Village 4: a 118-home development that will be part of the DHHL’s rent with the option to purchase (RWOTP) program.

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Late in 2019, a lack of water credits marked the latest delay, postponing the project even further. Now, the department has finally acquired enough to proceed; DHHL currently has enough water credits for all 118 homes in phase 1 and has acquired 101 more to put toward phase 2.

The State of Hawaii’s Office of Environmental Quality Control determined in late August that a supplemental environmental impact statement would not be required, further opening the door for construction in Village 4 to move forward.

Funding for phase 1 has been provided through a combination USDA Rural Development grants, General Obligation Bonds from the state legislature and Hawaiian Homes Commission trust funds, according to DHHL’s Information and Community Relations Officer Cedric Duarte.

Qualified renters — those earning less than 60% of the Area Median Income – would be provided the option to purchase the home after a 15-year rental compliance period. As of 2018, rent limit are estimated to be $1,060 for 2-bedroom homes, $1,224 for 3-bedroom homes and $1,366 for 4-bedroom homes.

Plans to begin construction are currently under review; DHHL expects an invitation to bid to come soon.

“An invitation for bid will be issued in early 2021,” said Duarte, noting that he also expects the 18-month long construction begin next summer

Years of delay, however, have prompted skepticism with the latest timeline among those close to the project.

“They told us that last summer,” said Bo Kahui, the Hawaiian Affairs Committee Chairman for Villages of La‘i ‘Opua. “I’m not very confident.”

Kahui did, however, express hope that the project’s developer, Ikaika Ohana, is close to interviewing potential beneficiaries in the upcoming weeks, prompting the project to move forward on schedule.

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Upon the projected completion of phase 1, phase 2 is expected to proceed with another 125 residential lots. Going forward, the latest regional plan update has prioritized water source development and addressing beneficiaries not served by Village 4, with a quick timeline in mind.

“Beneficiaries have been waiting way too long for this project to start up; I think we have well over 5,000 on the Hawaii Island list,” said Kahui. “It’s a substantial waitlist on the Big Island. Any way we can help get beneficiaries off the list, onto the land and into housing is a plus.”

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