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New Homes Coming for Habitat for Humanity

Molokai Habitat for Humanity (MHFH) received a grant that will allow the organization to build four to 10 homes over the next two years. In mid-April, MHFH was awarded $290,000 from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), which will support the Molokai organization’s Native Hawaiian Housing Program. MHFH was one of five organizations awarded funds under OHA’s new Stability in Housing initiative.

Since taking the position of Executive Director of MHFH two years ago, Zhantell Dudoit said the organization has been working to restructure and build sustainable partnerships with agencies like OHA and the Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL). She said with a lagging economy, funding has been harder to obtain while the cost of building is rising.

“If we could all join together to combine our now-limited resources, we’d be able to achieve our goals of building more homes,” said Dudoit.

That’s exactly what MHFH has done. The OHA funds will work in partnership with DHHL, which reimburses Habitat for Humanity for construction costs. Dudoit said the result is financial plan that will bring in long-term funding for construction of Molokai homes on and off DHHL land through the Native Hawaiian Housing Program. Under the program, Molokai residents apply through MFHF, OHA funds pay for building materials up front as part of the grant, and DHHL reimburses MFHF for construction costs of that house, according to Dudoit. MFHF can then turn around and use those funds for the next house, creating a chain reaction of sustainable funding. While the grant is scheduled to last two years starting next year, Dudoit said she envisions that these monies will go on helping local families into the future.

OHA’s recently revised strategic plan calls for a focus in several key areas, including stability in housing. Hawaii has one of the lowest rates of home ownership in the country. Challenges contributing to these statistics include the lack of available land, low wage coupled with high cost of living, high construction costs, and the lack of public funds. But the greatest factor contributing to Native Hawaiian homelessness is the lack of affordable housing options, according to MHFH.

“As Habitat moves forward, the basic intent is to foster community partnerships and afford the opportunity for economic stability in our community while providing adequate housing for as many families as we can,” said Dudoit.

Families take part in constructing their own home, as well as help to build the homes of fellow recipients.

Nani Duvauchelle, a Habitat homeowner and now project manager for the grant program, called building her home “a great experience when you work with your family.”

“[A home through MHFH was] a stepping stone not just for me, but for my kids too,” she said. She added that the Native Hawaiian Housing Program “will keep [recipients] from being homeless, give them something they can call their own and give them a sense of responsibility.”

Dudoit said a number of applicants are already in process to receive a home through the grant, but they welcome additional applicants at any time.

Ardis Farris, who is currently in the application process for a home, called the prospective of being accepted for a house “very exciting.”

“It’s going to be work, but we work hard here anyway and it’s a good thing,” she said of the building process. “Like growing a plant… you watch it grow… It’s something to look forward and it’ll be a blessing to be chosen.”

MFHF staff said receiving the grant is jumpstarting their goal of constructing additional houses on Molokai, but the work won’t end when the two-year funding expires.

“The long-term goal… is to keep building new homes but stress the need for OHA and others to partner in renovation and rehabilitation in older homes on Molokai, especially for our kupuna,” said Dudoit.

Call Molokai Habitat for Humanity at (808) 560-5444 for more information.


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