Amazing things can come to those who persevere. Together, the Nanakuli Housing Corporation (NHC) and the Barrett Family, of Oahu have persevered to pursue the dream of home ownership for Native Hawaiians. Family members recently broke ground on their new home, the Kawelo Cottage, which they will help build with sweat equity and support from NHC.
The Kawelo Cottage is the realized dream of NHC's late founder, Paige Kawelo Barber, whose vision was to create affordable housing for Native Hawaiians.
From 2008-2011, NHC executed a grant from the Administration for Native Americans (ANA) to create an affordable home designed by and for Native Hawaiians. The project purpose was to design a model and build partnerships for construction of affordable and environmentally sustainable homes at 10 percent below the market price.
NHC staff met with more than 800 individuals, including leadership of four homestead communities and participants in NHC’s programming, to solicit input into the ideal Hawaiian home. The community identified Native Hawaiian culture and values, such as ease of conversation, humility and leaving people and places better than one found them. Community meetings also identified desired environmentally sustainable and structural features, including solar water heaters, skylights, clothes lines, compost toilets, energy efficient light bulbs, water catchment systems, bamboo floors, and ramps and wider door frames for wheelchair accessibility.
Ideally, once a family received an affordable loan and selected a home plan, NHC would modify it for the specific site and begin construction. NHC also worked recruited families to participate in their new program, they held orientation sessions for 150 families living in substandard housing on the homesteads; seven families formally agreed to participate in the project. While each family completed training in money management, NHC assigned a case worker to complete a financial assessment and work with the family to pre-qualify for a low-interest, 100 percent financing mortgage and construction loan from the United States Department of Agriculture. However, as a result of high applicant volume, the USDA in the state of Hawaii only awarded loans to very low-income applicants in 2011.
Recently the Barrett family was approved for a USDA loan, and family members broke ground on their new home on April 24, 2013. The current Barrett home will be demolished and replaced by a 4-bedroom / 3-bathroom Kawelo Cottage. The Barrett's, with assistance from NHC, secured down-payment assistance from the Native American Housing and Self Determination Act (NAHASDA).
“Everyone here remains deeply committed to continue the work started by my mother Paige,” says Kapi`olani Barber, NHC executive director. “I'm pleased to finally have this groundbreaking with our first Kawelo Cottage. These homes are uniquely designed for our community and everyone at NHC looks forward to assisting more families finance and build their new homes.”
ANA is proud to have been able to make this investment in culturally representative affordable homes for Native Hawaiians and we look forward to hearing about future Kawelo homes being built.
Lillian Sparks, a Lakota woman of the Rosebud and Oglala Sioux Tribes, is the Commissioner of the Administration of Native Americans. Miss Sparks was confirmed by the United States Senate as the Commissioner on March 3, 2010, and was sworn in on March 5, 2010. She has devoted her career to supporting the educational pursuits of Native American students, protecting the rights of indigenous people, and empowering tribal communities.