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In Support of Restoring Funding for Native Hawaiian Housing Programs Fiscals Year 2013 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. HIRONO. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of restoring funding for Native Hawaiian housing programs.

The bill before us zeroes out funding for Native Hawaiian housing programs.
This is disappointing for the Native Hawaiian community and the families that need assistance from these programs.

It is also disappointing because Congress has a long history of bipartisan support for Native Hawaiian housing--and a responsibility to continue this legacy.
It has been nearly a century since the passage of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act. Congress passed this Act in 1921 at the urging of Hawaii's Delegate to Congress, Prince Jonah Ku 8hio 8 Kalaniana`ole. That legislation set aside some 200,000 acres of land to provide homesteads specifically for Native Hawaiians.

With the enactment of the Statehood Act of 1959, the control and administration of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act was transferred from the federal government to the new State of Hawaii. A year later in 1960, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, DHHL, was created to administer the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act.

Then in 2000, Congress passed the American Homeownership and Economic Opportunity Act.

This legislation established two programs to help provide housing to Native Hawaiians: The Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant, NHHBG, Program and the Section 184A loan guarantee program.

Hawaii has some of the most expensive real estate prices in the country. At the same time, more than 33,200 Native Hawaiian households are considered low-income. So without support from the NHHBG and 184A programs, many Native Hawaiians would not have access to quality, affordable housing. The grant funds are used primarily to develop infrastructure on Hawaiian Home Lands, which tend to be in the most isolated parts of our islands, typically in rural areas, and some with terrain that is difficult and costly to develop.

Not only are these programs necessary but they are effective.
For example, in FY2011 Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant funds were used to build 55 new homes, acquire 12 homes, and rehabilitate 12 homes. In addition, the Section 184A program has supported 255 home loans totaling $64.4 million. This program also has a strong track record, with a foreclosure rate elow 1 percent.

That's 79 new units of housing and 255 opportunities for Native Hawaiians to access financing for their own homes that would not have existed absent the NHHBG and 184A programs. These are real people in real homes--They are not statistics.

The bottom line is that these programs don't just provide housing--they expand opportunities for homeownership.

Owning a home has long been a pillar of the American dream. This is a dream that people do not forget, and do not give up on.

In fact, over 26,000 eligible families are currently on waiting lists for an opportunity to live on their home lands.

There are many stories of Native Hawaiians who have been on waiting lists for decades. In fact, some have died waiting to see this dream fulfilled.
Eliminating these funds--Which total $14 million for the two programs--won't solve our budget woes. All it will accomplish is closing off opportunities for a community that utilizes federal funds effectively.

This is the type of program that makes a difference in the lives of people by supporting strong communities and expanding opportunity.
There is a continued need for Native Hawaiian housing programs and I urge my colleagues to carry on Congress's bipartisan support for making the American dream of homeownership possible.

I hope that this matter will be resolved as the House and Senate negotiate a final Transportation-HUD Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2013.
Mahalo nui loa (thank you very much).

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