Hawaiian Community Assets
Primer for Leadership: Two women ignite a movement to reclaim land for Native Hawaiians
Join Leadership Talks on Friday, August 27 at 2 pm ET for a live, online interview with Kehaulani Filimoe'atu, Board President of Hawaiian Community Assets (HCA), and a 2003 Leadership for a Changing World award recipient. Filimoe'atu will discuss how HCA works to educate and support Native Hawaiians in their fight to reclaim land and become homeowners.
Native Hawaiians are keepers of a culture that existed a full 2,000 years before the islands appeared on any European map. This culture developed complex laws to protect the land and people and kept ancient genealogies that were passed down orally for generations. Yet today, Native Hawaiians suffer the state's highest rates of incarceration and unemployment, the worst levels of education and health, and the poorest housing conditions. Many are jobless and homeless.
When Kehaulani Filimoe`atu and Blossom Feiteira took on the housing issue in 2001, the state Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL) that Congress had created upon Hawaii's 1959 statehood, was not fulfilling its mandate to establish permanent homelands for Native Hawaiians. Some Native Hawaiians have been on a waiting list for 40 years while much of the land set aside for them is being leased to non-Hawaiians, including commercial ranchers and the U.S. military. Barriers to Native Hawaiians establishing homesteads include bureaucratic red tape, family debt, mortgage qualifications, and misunderstandings about how the system works. Native Hawaiians not only lack integration into the larger society but also lack the nation status mainland Native Americans have.
Kilimoe'atu and Feiteira were not deterred. The organization they founded, Hawaiian Community Assets, aims to increase the success rate of its clients in achieving and sustaining home ownership. Through HCA and other organizations they have helped create and nurture, Filimoe`atu and Feiteira have addressed the barriers of debt, mortgage qualifications, and misunderstanding of the system. Their efforts have paid off. In some areas of the state, the number of homesteads awarded to Native Hawaiians has dramatically increased. The two women have worked with DHHL to accelerate the leasing process for homesteads; obtain prioritization for elderly Native Hawaiians; and present workshops on Native Hawaiian issues to over 8,000 Native Hawaiians. Over time, Filimoe`atu and Feiteira have organized a statewide coalition that has challenged federal banking regulators, resulting in the largest-ever lending commitment by a commercial bank to Native Hawaiians.
HCA's lending program, Hawai`i Community Lending, began providing loans in 2002 for construction and mortgages for purchase, rehabilitation, and refinance purposes, both on Hawaiian Home Lands and in the community at large. In its first seven months of lending, HCA originated five construction and 15 permanent loans totaling $3.2 million. Nearly half were for homes on Hawaiian Home Lands. HCA is also the lead lender and partner in the development team of Waiehu Kou Phase 3, a 113-home Hawaiian Home Lands development. HCA pre-qualifies applicants and provides on-going counseling and education to ensure that they secure their mortgage loans.
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