Hawai’i First-Time Homebuyer Programs of 2019

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Updated on Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Housing prices in Hawai’i are among the most expensive in the nation, which can make buying your first home in the state extraordinarily difficult. However, Hawai’i’s residents may be able to take advantage of state- and county-level programs designed to make homeownership more accessible.

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Most of these programs require homebuyers to have moderate or low income, and applicants must meet the formal definition of first-time homebuyer. That means buyers can’t have owned residential real estate in the past three years.

Hawai’i first-time homebuyer programs

Hawai’i’s first-time homebuyer programs are also considered affordable housing programs. These are programs designed to help residents buy a family home in their local market. The broadest first-time homebuyer programs are administered through Hawai’i Housing Finance and Development Corporation (HHFDC). The HHFDC is the primary agency in charge of developing affordable housing in Hawai’i.

In addition to state-level agencies, first-time buyers in Hawai’i can find local programs administered through local agencies. For example, the Hawai’i Community Development Authority (HCDA) provides affordable housing in the Kaka’ako area. Kaua’i, Maui and Honolulu counties also offer homebuying programs for their residents.

Eligibility for Hawai’i assistance

The exact requirements for financial assistance depend on the program. However, for most first-time homebuyer programs in Hawai’i, buyers must be either low or moderate income buyers (earning less than 140% of the area’s median income). Additionally, buyers may not have owned a home in the last three years.

Reserved Housing program

The Reserved Housing program was created to increase the availability and affordability of homeownership for low- and moderate-income people in Kaka’ako. Under the Reserved Housing program, certain housing developments sell at least three-quarters of their units to people earning less than 140% of Honolulu’s median income. If you qualify to buy a home under the program, your monthly payment will be less than one-third of your monthly income.


  • Homes may be sold at below-market rate.
  • Payments are less than 33% of income.
  • HCDA retains first option to buy back the home during the first 10 years.
  • No more than a 10% down payment required.
  • Interest rate equal to the average interest rate on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage.


To qualify, you must

  • Be prequalified by a project lender.
  • Have sufficient income to qualify for a loan.
  • Earn less than 140% of Honolulu area median income. Median income for 2018 for a two-person household was $76,800 in 2018. That means you must earn less than $107,500 for a two-person household.
  • Have less than 135% of area median income in financial assets (i.e., less than $103,680 for a two-person household in 2018).
  • Occupy the home as your primary residence for 10 years (or give HCDA first option to buy back the property).
  • Have not owned a house in the last three years.

How it works

This program is only available after a qualified housing development is complete. You’ll find out that a specific housing development is accepting applications through an announcement in a widely circulated newspaper (such as the Honolulu Star).

The announcement will include information about the availability of housing and how to apply for the program. You may need to be prequalified for a home mortgage with a specific lender to complete your application.

Once you’ve submitted a completed application, you’ll become eligible for a unit. Housing units are sold to eligible participants on a first-come, first-served basis or through a lottery drawing.

Affordable Resale Program

Under the HHFDC Affordable Resale Program, eligible people can purchase a housing unit for below market rate. In exchange for purchasing a low cost housing unit, homeowners share future equity gains with the state of Hawai’i.


  • Housing sold at below market price.
  • Prices range from $250,000 to $500,000.
  • Must share gains in equity with the state of Hawai’i when you sell, rent or transfer the property.
  • State of Hawai’i has the first option to purchase a unit if sold in the first 10 years.


To qualify, you must

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Be a resident of Hawai’i.
  • Not own any residential real estate.
  • Have enough income to repay a loan on the property.
  • Earn less than 140% of median income.
  • Occupy the house as your primary residence for 10 years.

How it works

If you want to buy a house in one of the government-sponsored developments, you can learn more through the Locations Hawai’i website. After filling out a short form at the bottom of the webpage, the real estate agency will send you more information and an application for the program.

Mortgage Credit Certificate

In Hawai’i, people eligible for the Mortgage Credit Certificate can claim a federal tax credit for 20% of the interest that they pay on their primary home mortgage.


  • 20% of mortgage interest is a tax credit.
  • Credit is available as long as the home is your primary residence


To qualify, you must

  • Meet income requirements (income requirements vary by location and family size).
  • Not have owned a primary residence in the last three years.
  • Apply when you take out a new mortgage.

How it works

MCCs are only available through certain lenders in Hawai’i. When you’re taking out a home mortgage, ask the lender about the Mortgage Certificate Credit. The lender will give you the information you need to apply for the MCC. When you file your taxes, you will need to fill out IRS form 8396 to claim your credit.

Honolulu County Down Payment Loan Program

The Honolulu County Down Payment Loan Program is a zero-interest loan that can help first-time homebuyers meet down payment requirements for conventional or FHA mortgages.


  • 0% interest loan.
  • Up to $40,000.
  • Loan to be paid off in equal monthly payments over 20 years.


To qualify, you must

  • Earn less than 80% of Honolulu’s median income. Median income is $74,650 for a two-person household, so you must earn less than $59,720.
  • Be approved for a home mortgage.
  • Be a first-time homebuyer.
  • Occupy the house as your primary residence.
  • Home must be located in Oahu.

How it works

The 0% interest loans are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. To apply for a down payment loan, you must take homebuyer education class. After you complete the class, you can apply for a home mortgage through a bank or credit union.

When you’re applying for your home mortgage, let the lender know that you’re interested in a down payment loan from the city of Honolulu. The lender must submit your loan file to the city, and the city will approve you for the loan (if you meet the requirements).

Kaua’i County Home Buyer Loan Program

Through the Kaua’i Home Buyer Loan program, eligible borrowers can finance up to $450,000 on a low-interest loan with no mortgage insurance.


  • No mortgage insurance.
  • Up to 100% financing.
  • Low interest rate (as low as 3%).
  • Up to $450,000.
  • 30 year amortization with a 15-year balloon.


  • Single-family units only, must be owner occupied.
  • Must not have owned property in the last three years.
  • Must be “mortgage ready.” That means you have sufficient income to purchase a $175,000 condo or $250,000 single-family home, and you have fair credit.
  • Must earn less than 80% of Kaua’i area median income. The median is $70,500 for a family of four, so you must earn less than $56,400.

How it works

Before you can apply for a low-cost mortgage, you must complete a homebuyer education class. After completing the class, you can submit a Kaua‘i Resident Affordable Home Buyer Registration Form. After that, you’ll be added to an affordable housing waitlist. Once you’re on this list, you’ll receive updates about homes that are for sale (or under development). The notifications will also tell you whether you’re eligible to buy the properties.

Maui County Home Buyer grant

Each year, Maui County offers grants of up to $30,000 to help first-time buyers cover down payment and closing costs. These grants only have to be repaid when the buyer sells, refinances or moves out of the house.


  • Up to $30,000 grant (no more than 5% of purchase price).
  • Grants must be repaid when homeowner sells, refinances or rents out the property.


In order to qualify you must

  • Be a resident of Maui County.
  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Earn less than 140% of the Maui median income. The median is currently $113,960, so you must earn less than $159,544.
  • Not have owned a home in the previous three years.
  • Have less than $75,000 in assets (excluding retirement).

How it works

The grants are distributed through a lottery system. To enter the lottery, you must pick up an application from the County’s Housing Division Administration office (2065 Main Street Suite 108, Wailuku).

In addition to filling out the application, you must get a preapproval letter from a mortgage lender. The application and the preapproval letter must be delivered to the Housing Division Administration office (either by mail or hand delivered).

In 2019, the deadline for the grant was January 4, 2019. No information is available yet for the 2020 program.

National first-time homebuyer programs

The state and county programs in Hawai’i make buying your first home much more accessible, especially if you’re a low- or moderate-income earner. But these aren’t the only programs available to you. First-time buyers can combine the Hawai’ian programs with national programs to make homebuying even more accessible.

Most of the national programs are loan programs, which can be used to buy some of Hawai’i’s affordable housing units. The loans available on a national level may also be combined with some of Hawai’i’s down payment loans and grants.

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