The Blessing of Home Ownership

The Maui News
Saturday, September 24, 2005

By BRIAN PERRY, Assistant City Editor

WAIEHU – Kilakila Kamau was moving into his new home on Friday.

The two-bedroom, 900-square-foot building stood virtually empty, a bare wall in the kitchen awaiting a new refrigerator ready to be lugged from a pickup truck parked outside. And Kamau, a disc jockey known as the "Big Hawaiian" on Q-103 FM, smiled broadly, showing a spacious living room that leads to a lanai and a yard in need of landscaping.

"I'm blessed," he said.

The blessing of homeownership was indeed on the minds of more than 100 people who took part Friday in the dedication of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands' Waiehu Kou 3 subdivision.

The project developed by the Dowling Co. has 115 two-, three- and four-bedroom homes and lots. Seventy-nine homes are developer-built, and the remaining 36 are ready for owner-builder construction.

Kahu Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr. chanted and blessed the project, thanking Gov. Linda Lingle and Department of Hawaiian Home Lands Director Micah Kane for their commitment to move Native Hawaiians off of waiting lists and onto homestead lands.

"The governor has supported us 100 percent," he said.

Maxwell told the new homeowners they're living in a historic and sacred area, near many burials of their ancestors and on land much fought over by Hawaiians before and after contact with the West.

"You are in a very sacred place," he said. "You are in a very special place that you should honor."

Kane said that while homesteaders and public officials gathered Friday to dedicate the completion of the subdivision, "it's really the beginning for our people."

He said the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and the Lingle administration are committed to completing many more such subdivisions in the future.

The Dowling Co. already is set to work on nearby Waiehu Kou 4 and the Villages of Leali'i in Lahaina. Waiehu Kou 4 will provide 84 two- to four-bedroom homes and 12 lots for self-help Home ownership housing. Groundbreaking is expected in late October, with homes ready for families in late 2006.

The first phase of the Villages of Leali'i will have 104 homes priced from $127,000 to $242,000. Construction is planned to begin in November with the first homes ready in June.

Kane said the Lingle administration's support of Hawaiian homestead projects is "unprecedented."

He said he views the governor's Cabinet as "just an extension of DHHL."

Lingle said she was honored to be part of the fulfillment of the decades-old promise to provide homestead lands to Native Hawaiians, whom she challenged to work together for their community.

"The vision of Hawaiian people is to make certain the entire community is uplifted," she said.

Lingle said she was saddened, though, by "all that wasn't done for such a long period of time."

She said she didn't want to dwell on the lost opportunities, but she pledged that "those days are over. . . . There are not going to be any more decades of waiting."

In the next 18 months, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands plans to offer nearly 2,000 leases to homesteaders.

"We're excited about the progress that we're making," Lingle said.

She urged Hawaiians still waiting for homestead properties to get their debt and finances in order so that when their opportunity comes for a homestead property they'll be prepared to qualify for a loan.

James Aki, president of the Waiehu Kou 3 Community Association, was among the first families to begin moving into the new subdivision in late January.

He said he had been on a homestead waiting list for 20 years. Sadly, his mother died a month before she could see her son move into his new home.

"It's been a long time . . . but well worth it," Aki said.

The former Paukukalo resident sold his former home and used the proceeds to move into a four-bedroom, 2?-bath residence. Aki and his wife, Suzie, landscaped their property, and bought appliances and other amenities for their home.

They share their home with a 24-year-old daughter and two dogs. A 20-year-old son is attending college in Utah.

"It's a nice home," Aki said.

Leilani Justice and her husband, Jim, moved into their homestead home in May after living in San Clemente, Calif., for more than 15 years. Leilani Justice was born in Pauwela in 1938 and graduated from old Maui High School in 1956.

She moved to the Mainland, where she met her husband, and lived there for more than 40 years while remaining on the homestead waiting list and nearly giving up hope of being able to return home.

"We never thought it would happen," she said. "I'm so blessed."

Kamau's 7,500-foot-lot is a little smaller than the average lot size of 8,000 square feet. Homes ranged in cost from $99,850 to $169,850.

Living on a Hawaiian homestead property, Kamau will pay $1 a year for 99 years on the leased property. He said his home cost $105,000, and, thanks to financing help from developer Everett Dowling, he didn't need to come up with a down payment or closing costs.

Dowling's company secured $405,000 in federal grants to support buyers with down payments and closing costs. Bank of America provided home construction financing, and Hawaii Community Lending is the project's lead lender, providing mortgage financing for the home buyers.

On Sept. 30, Kamau and his fiancee, Marguerite Young, will say goodbye to paying $1,700 each month to share a Kahului residence with a roommate in the Maui Lani Subdivision. Their housing payments will drop to less than $1,000, Young said.

Now, the couple can look forward to other things.

"We'll fix our house and then get married," she said.

Brian Perry can be reached at bperry@maui

Copyright © 2005 The Maui News.

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