Story at a glance

  • The U.S. is set to give 80 acres of former federal land to the Hawaiian Housing Commission.
  • The HHC was installed in 1921 to preserve homes for Indigenous Hawaiian peoples.
  • Officials estimate about 200 to 400 Hawaiian families can benefit from the land transfer.

The U.S. government will be returning surplus lands once intended for housing mainland Americans on the island back to Native Hawaiian Islanders.

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced on Monday that this land transfer is an attempt to heal historical trespasses against Indigenous populations in Hawaii.

“The Native Hawaiian Community has waited more than 20 years for the federal government to address a $16.9 million credit owed by the United States to the Hawaiian Home Lands Trust,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “Today’s action is an important step in our commitment to resolving the Hawaiian Home Lands Recovery Act settlement. We thank the Department of Commerce, General Services Administration, State of Hawai‘i, and Native Hawaiian Community members who provided their input during consultation on this transfer.”

The amount of land to be returned consists of an 80-acre parcel of surplus federal property sitting at the former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Pacific Tsunami Warning Center on the island of O‘ahu on Ewa Beach. It will become part of the Hawaiian Home Lands Trust.

Estimates note the land can hold roughly 200 to 400 Native Hawaiian families.


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“Residential lots on Oʻahu are of the highest demand from applicants on the waiting list. This land transfer is an opportunity for beneficiaries that is truly in line with the spirit of the Hawaiian Home Lands Recovery Act,” said William J. Aila, Jr., Chairman of the Hawaiian Homes Commission.

The Hawaiian Homes Commission (HHC) was created with the signing of a federal bill by former President Harding in 1921. 

The bill works to house native Hawaiian people — defined by having "at least 50 percent Hawaiian blood" — in government-sponsored housing. 

A site was identified by officials as eligible for transfer to the HHC back in 1998, which left a credit of $16.9 million owed to the HHC by the federal government.

The location at Ewa Beach on O’ahu works to fill that credit.

“We are pleased that Native Hawaiians will now have access to the 80 acres in Ewa Beach where the NOAA Pacific Tsunami Warning Center once resided,” said Deputy Secretary Don Graves. “With this overdue transfer, this parcel of land will soon be called home for hundreds of Native Hawaiians."

Published on Jun 15, 2021