Big Island

Tired of Renting? Then Self-Help Housing May Be For You

One of the greatest challenges for families in rural Hawai‘i is the high cost of housing. Kumakua mutual self-help housing project in Hawi provides underserved families with safe, affordable housing. The mutual self-help program aims at rural communities and works with small-scale properties, and is now accepting applications for Kumakua 2B North Kohala.

HICDC Self Help Hawi, Hawaii Photo Courtesy of

HICDC Self-Help Hawi, Hawaii (Photo Courtesy of

What is HICDC?

Hawaii Island Community Development Corp (HICDC) is part of a federal program that has helped build neighborhoods in Mountain View, Keeau, Papaikou, Kona, and Kohala. HICDC has been providing housing for low-income families on Hawai`i Island since 1991. Their mission is to assist low and moderate-income residents of the County of Hawaii secure, affordable housing. In the course of carrying out this mission, HICDC has been engaged primarily in two programs: self-help housing and senior rentals.

The self-help program involves land acquisition, financing, subdivision development, recruitment and mortgage qualification of families, securing sub-contractors, permits, and working with families to construct their homes. The families work together under HICDC’s terms and conditions of “sweat equity.” All of those who are helped by HICDC are first-time homebuyers and are proud to have played a major role in building their home. The self-help housing program has developed more than 300 homes in 31 separate projects and has involved hundreds of self-help builders.

With operational funding coming from the USDA Rural Development Self-Help Housing Program, and family financing from the USDA Section 502 direct loan program, groups of 8 to 10 low and very-low income families work together to build each other’s homes. They have helped families build 246 homes on the Big Island, with 53 in Hawi. Phase I of the Kumakua subdivision in Hawi consisted of 22 homes. Phase II was just completed with 19, and Phase III will begin construction, with 12 families so far, by June or July of this year.

Key Elements

This is a wonderfully well-designed concept that depends on only a few key elements:

1. No one may move into their home until all the houses are completed. The first is not finished until the last is finished. The positive reinforcement peer pressure and team-building that it creates is powerful! You get to know your neighbors, and you get to be good neighbors.

2. If you want a home like this, you have to find the time. You and a partner must contribute 40 hours each weekend (20 hours each) towards construction until all homes in the phase are completed. Two 10-hour days, every weekend, for a long time ties you to a place. A typical work schedule is every Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. for approximately 10 months.

Forty hours a weekend times 52 weeks average development period equals a year’s worth of labor. That’s a significant contribution, one that will make people appreciate what they have earned. Sweat equity – people value what they pay for!

HICDC also will incorporate a number of sustainable methods and materials in the home construction, including solar orientation, glazing, dimensional planning, solar hot water, borate or ACQ treated wood, organic asphalt shingles or metal roofing, and energy efficient lighting.

More Information

The Hawaii Island Community Development Corporation is now accepting applications. For more information, please call 808-969-1158 or visit their offices at 100 Pauaji St., Suite 204, Hilo, HI. 96720.


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Yvonne janai davis

January 15, 2018

I am a retired senior and now concerting, a move to relocate to the island of kohala.


April 17, 2018

Please help me I will do the best I can I have five kids and I need a nice house up with them in if you can please help me let me know I’m tired of being rich peoples mortgage I want to be in M please help me I will do the best I can I have five kids and I need a nice house with them in if you can please help me let me know I’m tired of being rich peoples mortgage I want to pay my own thanks

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