“Everybody was screaming and clapping,” recalls Mary Montez, who knew several of the happy families filling the Kapolei High cafeteria Sept. 30 for the most recent lot selection by the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL). Montez’s family was the last of 65 names to be called that day to choose a turn-key home in the Ka‘uluokaha‘i master-planned community in East Kapolei.
“Please tell the governor and the Hawaiian Homes officials thank you again,” she said later in a phone call. “This is wonderful for the younger generation.” Montez, who has been on the DHHL waiting list since 1981, said the five-bedroom home her family selected will be shared with her grandson Marlon, 31, who is a veteran and a federal firefighter at Hickam Air Force Base, and his daughter.
Over the next few years, DHHL will be awarding a total of 1,000 lots — a mix of turn-key and vacant lots — in the growing community near Ka Makana Ali‘i, a shopping center on DHHL land, which is generating rent revenue for more homes and programs for Native Hawaiians, the University of Hawai‘i West O‘ahu campus and the Kapolei rail station. At the event, Governor Ige praised DHHL director Jobie Masagatani and her staff for offering different creative housing options to families, such as rent-to-own projects, turn-key and vacant lot development, and partnerships with nonprofits such as Habitat for Humanity.
“I’m excited about the changes I’m seeing at DHHL,” said the governor. “It’s the opportunity for beneficiaries to fulfill the objectives of Prince Kūhiō — giving Native Hawaiian people access to their lands so they can better their lives,” said the governor. “I’ve made DHHL a funding priority, allocating the highest level of funding in the department’s history — more than double what was set aside previously.”
Director Masagatani said the selection ceremony was the culmination of a two-year-long DHHL initiative to reinvigorate the vacant lot and turnkey home awards program statewide. “This wouldn’t be possible without a team of people, including our staff, as well as our financial sector and construction industry partners, working together on behalf of our beneficiaries.”