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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, April 17, 2006

Parcels in Kaua'i's largest development for native people

Associated Press

Nearly 700 people attended a meeting Saturday in Puhi, Kaua'i, where the state announced who would receive 160 Hawaiian Home Lands land leases on the island. Before the meeting started, Gov. Linda Lingle, standing in background, talked with Anahola resident Robin Danner. Yvonne Pascua, second from right, in white sweater, later received the first lease.

DENNIS FUJIMOTO | The Garden Island

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Henry Kupihea hoped for 23 years that the state would someday give him property to build a home.

He got his wish this month, when 160 Hawaiian Home Lands land leases on Kaua'i were awarded by the state.

"I was always on the waiting list, waiting to come home," Kupihea said Thursday. "It's so beautiful there. The ocean and the mountains are five minutes apart."

Kupihea, who is 50 percent Hawaiian, said he and many other Hawaiians need this kind of help because they would have a hard time financing a home by themselves. Kupihea looks forward to escaping $1,400 monthly rents for him and his four children.

The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands distributed the land leases for $1 per year on April 8, part of an effort to give out 6,000 leases in five years, more than were issued in the first 80 years of the program, which started in 1921.

Since 2003, about 1,300 residential leases have been awarded. The latest are part of Kaua'i's largest development for Native Hawaiians.

The leases come from 200,000 acres statewide that were set aside by Congress in 1921, said Lloyd Yonenaka, spokesman for the department.

"The wrongdoings to the Hawaiian people put them at a disadvantage. There is a desire by many to see that wrong made right," said Micah Kane, chairman of the department.

Any resident who is at least 50 percent Hawaiian is eligible to sign up for the lease program. The state has been trying to give out the leases more quickly, and it is offering programs to help people finance the mortgages for houses built on the land.

The Hawaiians who receive the leases still must pay for the house, but it could cost less than half as much after the land is already purchased, Yonenaka said.

"The price of a home in Hawai'i is astronomical," he said. "It'll help relieve the pressure on the market for affordable homes for everyone."

More than 700 people, including Gov. Linda Lingle, attended the meeting Saturday when the state announced who would receive the leases. They were allocated first to the families who had been on the waiting list the longest.

The New Home Ownership Assistance Program provides home-buyer counseling and ownership readiness training. Another program gives Hawaiians more time to raise money for the home after they've been granted the lease.

About 18,000 people are on the residential waiting list for Hawaiian land leases, Yonenaka said.

"This provides incentives for families to improve their quality of life," Kane said.

The Pi'ilani Mai Ke Kai subdivision will be built in three phases. It is located on 71 acres on the coastline in Anahola in east Kaua'i. Infrastructure improvements such as water lines, roads and electricity will be paid for by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. Construction on the first 80 lots is expected to begin in a few weeks, and the first homes could be completed in about a year and a half.

"We're very happy for those who were awarded homestead leases," said Kaua'i Mayor Bryan Baptiste. "Many of them had been waiting years for this to happen, and now their dreams of owning a home have come true."