Indigenous communities struggle with housing problems

Tribal communities across the country are grappling with the issue of affordable housing.

Recently there has been a push for federal funds to help develop communities in tribal areas to preserve the culture.

Native Americans have some of the worst housing needs in the country. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Indigenous communities face high rates of poverty, low income, overcrowding, lack of sanitation and development challenges.

About a third of Indigenous households in tribal lands live in poverty, according to the NLIHC, compared to 18% nationwide. Nearly 16% of their households live in overcrowded conditions, and families are almost five times more likely to live in poor housing, and about 70% of tribal governments see infrastructure costs as a barrier to further development.

The struggle for affordable housing was the focus for the native people of Hawaii.

“The most important issue for Hawaii right now is affordable housing,” said Hannemann, the president and CEO of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association. All of this affects the livelihoods of Native Hawaiians, which in turn affects our economy.”

In 1920, Congress passed the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, which earmarked 200,000 acres of land on the islands for settlement by native Hawaiians of 50% or more Hawaiian blood.

“In the last 30 years, a change allowed a successor to have a blood count of 25% or more to be successful,” said William J. Ailā, the director of the Department of Hawaiian Homelands. “There is a law passed by the state Senate and House; it sits before Congress awaiting Congressional approval that would reduce the blood quantum to 1/32 for the succession.

Four years ago, the Hawaiian legislature took action to solve this 100-year-old problem, but the solution stalled at the federal level, leaving the lives of thousands of Hawaiian Natives in limbo.

“My grandfather bought the land for $2,000 and made a home here,” said Kukana Kama-Toth, who lives in Waimanalo. “I am the current tenant here. i am the only child I have five children myself. I only have one home. With blood quanta, my kids can’t be on the Hawaiian homestead list; they don’t do 50% blood quanta. Long story short, my children will only have this home for me.”

Right now there are 28,000 Native Hawaiians on this homestead list awaiting more housing and development to have affordable housing.

“The department, which is often criticized for not moving waiting lists to the countryside, needs a significant source of sustainable funding to reduce the waiting list,” Ailā said.

A historic $600 million has been approved for the Department of Hawaiian Homelands to develop more housing and infrastructure on the allocated lots for those on the waitlist.

“The hardest part of development is building the infrastructure,” Ailā said.

“A large part of the $600 million that we have is going to go into infrastructure because you need that to build vertices. It’s essential.”

While this is a big step in the right direction for the indigenous community, the fight is not over.

Families hope to reform the blood quantum to pass these homes on to their children.