Mon. Oct 2nd, 2023
    Investigations Opened into Unsolicited Offers for Property in Fire-Stricken Maui Town

    Hawaii Governor Josh Green has launched investigations into individuals who have made unsolicited offers for property in the fire-ravaged town of Lahaina, in violation of an emergency order. The order, signed on August 19, aims to prevent the sale of land in the historic community to outside buyers. Green explained that the order was put in place to allow residents time to assess their options without feeling pressured to sell. Concerns have been raised that Native Hawaiians and long-term local residents may be forced to sell their properties, potentially leading to an exodus of people from the area and the loss of cultural traditions.

    The recent fire in Lahaina resulted in the deaths of 115 people and the destruction of approximately 1,800 to 1,900 homes. The town, with a population of 12,000, is home to many individuals who work in the nearby hospitality industry. As the cleanup and rebuilding process commences, around 6,000 people are currently residing in hotels and vacation rentals.

    Initially, Governor Green had suggested imposing a moratorium on land sales in Lahaina. However, he later opted for a prohibition on unsolicited offers instead. Those found guilty of violating the order could face imprisonment for up to a year and fines up to $5,000. While some residents, like Melody Lukela-Singh, wish for a complete ban on property sales to outsiders, others, like State Representative Troy Hashimoto, believe a more nuanced approach is necessary to protect property owners without depriving them of their rights.

    Governor Green has also raised the possibility of the state acquiring land to prevent residents from being priced out of the rebuilt community. This could involve the formation of a land trust, allowing families to sell their properties to the state and repurchase them later. Green has expressed openness to all potential options that would prevent predatory behavior towards local residents.

    Furthermore, Green is considering setting up a victim assistance fund, similar to the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund. The fund would aim to compensate residents for their losses without involving expensive legal proceedings. The details of this fund will be announced in a forthcoming address on September 8.

    The Associated Press