Hawaiians had consistently advocated for homesteading by Hawaiians since the Land Act of 1895 set up five methods of homesteading upon the former government and Crown lands by the general public. Hawaiians had applied for and received homestead lands, individually and through homestead associations.
Then, a homestead resolution was drafted and debated in Congress; The U.S. House of Representatives passed this measure on May 22, 1920. With disagreement in the Senate, Hawaiʻi’s delegate, Prince Kūhiō provided amendments and on July 9, 1921 SR 1881 passed both houses (and was signed into law. (McGregor)
“The Congress of the United States and the State of Hawaii declare that the policy of this Act is to enable native Hawaiians to return to their lands in order to fully support self-sufficiency for native Hawaiians and the self-determination of native Hawaiians in the administration of this Act, and the preservation of the values, traditions, and culture of native Hawaiians.”
“Native Hawaiian” means any descendant of not less than one-half part of the blood of the races inhabiting the Hawaiian Islands previous to 1778.
The principal purposes are:
- Establishing a permanent land base for the benefit and use of native Hawaiians (upon which they may live, farm, ranch, and commercial/industrial or other activities;
- Placing native Hawaiians on the lands set aside in a prompt and efficient manner and assuring long-term tenancy to beneficiaries;
- Preventing alienation of the fee title to the lands set aside so that these lands will always be held in trust for continued use by native Hawaiians in perpetuity;
- Providing adequate amounts of water and supporting infrastructure, so that homestead lands will always be usable and accessible; and
- Providing financial support and technical assistance to native Hawaiian beneficiaries to enhance economic self-sufficiency and promote community-based development, the traditions, culture and quality of life of native Hawaiians
Approximately 200,000‐acres of land was set aside to the Hawaiian Homes Commission as a land trust for homesteading by native Hawaiians. The property and its program are administered by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.
Pursuant to provisions of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (HHCA), the Department provides direct benefits to native Hawaiians in the form of ninety‐nine‐year homestead leases at an annual rental of $1.
In 1990, the Legislature authorized the Department to extend leases for an aggregate term not to exceed 199 years (Act 305, Session Laws of Hawaiʻi 1990; section 208, HHCA).
Homestead leases are for residential, agricultural, or pastoral purposes. Aquacultural leases are also authorized, but none has been awarded to date. The intent of the homesteading program is to provide for economic self‐sufficiency of native Hawaiians through the provision of land.
Other benefits provided by the HHCA include financial assistance through direct loans or loan guarantees for home construction, replacement, or repair, and for the development of farms and ranches; technical assistance to farmers and ranchers; and the operation of water systems.
To be eligible to apply for a Hawaiian home lands homestead lease, you must meet two requirements:
- You must be at least 18 years of age; and
- You must be a native Hawaiian, defined as “any descendant of not less than one‐half part of the blood of the races inhabiting the Hawaiian Islands previous to 1778.” This means, you must have a blood quantum of at least 50 percent Hawaiian. This requirement remains unchanged since the HHCA’s passage in 1921.
There are three kinds of homestead leases: residential, agricultural, and pastoral. Eligible beneficiaries may apply for one of the following:
- One residential lot;
- One agricultural lot;
- One pastoral lot;
- One residential lot and one agricultural lot; or
- One residential lot and one pastoral lot.
Eligible beneficiaries may not apply for all three types of homestead leases. Nor may they apply for both an agricultural lot and a pastoral lot.
The advantages of being a Hawaiian homestead lessee include, among the many benefits:
- Annual lease rent of $1.00 per year;
- 99‐year lease;
- Lease term which can be extended for an additional 100 years, allowing lessees to pass their homestead from generation to generation;
- Seven‐year exemption from real property tax;
- Complete exemption of tax on land;
- Minimal real property tax after the first seven years (applies only to County of Kauaʻi and City and County of Honolulu, Oʻahu);
- Taxing of assessed value of improvements on property (Hawaiʻi and Maui counties only);
- Homeowner’s exemption (to be filed with respective county’s real property tax office);
- Low interest government loans (contact DHHL for more information); and
- Ability to use the equity in your property to obtain loans
We prepared the ʻĀina Mauna Legacy Program (long‐range planning document,) its Implementation Work Plan and Environmental Assessment for approximately 56,000‐acres (about ¼-of all the DHHL lands in the Islands) of Hawaiian Homes Commission property on the Island of Hawaiʻi.
To put the property’s size and shape in perspective, it is equivalent to an area on Oʻahu from Hawaiʻi Kai to Aloha Stadium (19-miles) and Aloha Tower to the Pali Lookout (6-miles).
The ‘Āina Mauna Legacy Program is DHHL’s long‐range planning document geared to restore and protect approximately 56,000‐acres of native Hawaiian forest on Mauna Kea that is ecologically, culturally and economically self‐sustaining for the Hawaiian Home Lands Trust, its beneficiaries and the community.
We were honored and proud when our planning document, the ‘Āina Mauna Legacy Program, received awards: the “Environment/Preservation Award” from the American Planning Association‐Hawai‘i Chapter and the “Koa: Standing the Test of Time Award” by the Hawai‘i Forest Industry Association.