A Hawaiian Homeland development shortchanges tenants
November 03, 2004
Darin Awong has been served his eviction notice. After months of having video cameras trained on his Kapolei house and suspicious cars cruising by late at night, his landlord has determined that Awong has an ‘ineligible tenant’ living in his house.
Kahealani Keahi-Wood and her husband own their 4-year-old home on leasehold land above the city. On a recent morning, Keahi-Wood noticed a Jaguar drive up her street. People armed with cameras and notebooks emerged.
“I asked them what they were doing and they said they were making a mandatory inspection—that they were the management company in charge of taking care of our community—and they were taking pictures of houses and lots that were in violation of the rules and regulations. They were proposing to make a fine of $25 for every violation that they see. And the fines could be used as a lien against your house if you didn’t pay.”
Awong and Keahi-Wood don’t know each other, but they have one thing in common: They are Hawaiian and procured their houses because the land beneath them is owned by the Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL).
Created out of legislation pushed through Congress by Prince Kuhio in 1921, DHHL controls more than 200,000 acres throughout the islands, and has been slowly awarding parcels to people with 50 percent or more Hawaiian blood. In the past, the awards have often been virtually worthless, due to the remoteness of the land or lack of infrastructure. Approximately 20,000 qualified Hawaiians remain on the Department’s waiting list.
The Lingle administration made “putting Hawaiians on the land” a campaign promise, and the new DHHL Chairman, Micah Kane, recently announced the Department’s acquisition, from other state departments, of 1,800 acres on O‘ahu, Maui and the Big Island. Kane claims that the new land will provide homes for 3,500 families. DHHL, however, is not in the business of building homes; if past experience is any indicator Kane will, in many cases, seek to “partner” with private developers, who will build the housing for profit, selling them to individual Hawaiians who qualify for a loan.
What these new suburbs will look like is a matter of great concern to Kane, who stated in a recent Honolulu Advertiser article that DHHL has “…really shifted its philosophy…to move toward master-planned communities.” The trouble is, not everyone likes the plan—or the master.
Enter Awong and Keahi-Wood, two “beneficiaries” who live inside two versions of the new paradigm for the 21st century Hawaiian Homestead. “A prison without walls,” says Awong. For Keahi-Wood, “Everything is violation, violation, violation.” ( Collapse )
Seen at http://www.honoluluweekly.com/cover/detail.php?id=57