Hawaii Initiates Inquiries into Unauthorized Property Bids as Effort to Maintain Local Ownership in Lahaina Continues

by Ethan Kim
Hawaii Property Investigations

Governor Josh Green of Hawaii announced on Thursday that multiple investigations are underway to scrutinize individuals allegedly making unauthorized offers to acquire property in Lahaina, a town in Maui recently devastated by wildfires. These offers contravene a newly issued emergency proclamation signed by the governor earlier this week.

The emergency order aims to thwart the transfer of property in the historic coastal town to non-local buyers. The governor’s intent, as he articulated in an interview with The Big Big News, is to grant residents a reprieve as they ponder their future course of action.

Even before the catastrophic fire on August 8, concerns were rife about the escalating gentrification of Lahaina. There has been increasing anxiety that Native Hawaiians and residents with multi-generational property holdings may feel compelled to sell.

The concern extends to the potential departure of these residents from Lahaina or even from Hawaii, taking with them their cultural and traditional heritage. Such a move would contribute to the growing emigration of Hawaiians to regions with lower living costs.

“We have observed such instances across various geographies where people, having lost everything else, are forced to sell their land for a fraction of its value,” Governor Green said. “Our aim is to keep the land under the ownership of local inhabitants and afford them an opportunity to rebuild.”

According to authorities, the wildfire claimed the lives of 115 individuals and razed approximately 1,800 to 1,900 homes. Lahaina, with a population of 12,000, is home to many employed in the hospitality sector in adjacent areas such as Kaanapali. About 6,000 individuals are currently housed in hotels and other temporary accommodations, awaiting cleanup and reconstruction efforts.

Governor Green, a Democrat, initially sought to enact a comprehensive ban on property sales in the area. However, he conceded that such a blanket prohibition could be impractical and might deter willing sellers from initiating sale discussions. Instead, the ban on unsolicited property offers serves as a de facto moratorium, he said.

Several cases of unwanted property offers have been reported to the state attorney general, although the exact number of open investigations remains undisclosed. Offenders found in violation of the order may face up to one year in prison and fines up to $5,000.

Local resident Melody Lukela-Singh expressed her disappointment that an outright ban was not enacted. “At this emotionally charged time, everyone is susceptible to manipulation,” she said.

State Representative Troy Hashimoto, who chairs the House housing committee, described the governor’s measure as a “nuanced” approach. Robert Thomas, an expert in property rights litigation, noted that the situation presents conflicting interests—property owners’ rights versus governmental protections against predatory behavior.

Governor Green also floated the idea of establishing a land trust as a potential safeguard against property exploitation. He expressed willingness to listen to Lahaina residents regarding the future use of existing state-owned lands in their community.

Furthermore, Governor Green is considering the creation of a “victim assistance fund,” akin to the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund. The objective would be to provide direct financial assistance to victims without the intermediary costs often charged by legal professionals. Funding sources for the proposed assistance fund, which are yet to be announced, could include private, philanthropic, and government contributions.

Reported from Lahaina, Hawaii.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Hawaii Property Investigations

What initiated the state of Hawaii to launch investigations into property offers in Lahaina?

The state of Hawaii, led by Governor Josh Green, initiated investigations following reports of unauthorized property offers in Lahaina, Maui. These offers were in violation of a new emergency proclamation aimed at preserving local ownership and giving residents time to decide their next steps after a devastating fire.

What is the purpose of the emergency proclamation signed by Governor Josh Green?

The emergency proclamation is designed to prevent land in Lahaina from being acquired by non-local buyers. It aims to give the residents of the fire-stricken town some “breathing room” as they consider their future options, particularly in the wake of concerns about escalating gentrification.

How many lives and homes were lost in the Lahaina fire?

The fire in Lahaina claimed the lives of 115 people and resulted in the destruction of approximately 1,800 to 1,900 homes.

What are the legal consequences for those found in violation of the new emergency order?

Individuals found guilty of making unauthorized property offers in violation of the emergency proclamation may face imprisonment for up to one year and could be fined up to $5,000.

What alternative solutions is Governor Green considering?

Governor Green has considered a variety of other options to protect local property owners, including the establishment of a land trust and the creation of a “victim assistance fund” similar to the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund. These efforts would be aimed at providing financial support to those affected, potentially without the need for intermediary legal costs.

How has the local community responded to the emergency proclamation and subsequent investigations?

The community has had mixed reactions. While some, like resident Melody Lukela-Singh, are disappointed that an outright ban on property sales was not imposed, others find the governor’s approach to be nuanced and considerate of various legal and ethical factors.

Is the state planning to use existing state lands in Lahaina for rebuilding?

According to Governor Green, the state will not make any moves regarding the use of existing state lands in Lahaina unless requested by the community.

What is the proposed “victim assistance fund” and who would contribute to it?

Governor Green is considering setting up a “victim assistance fund” to provide direct financial support to those who suffered losses due to the fire. While it’s too early to specify funding sources, they could include contributions from private, philanthropic, and governmental entities.

More about Hawaii Property Investigations

  • Hawaii Governor’s Office Emergency Proclamation
  • Lahaina Fire: A Timeline of Events
  • The Big Big News Interview with Governor Josh Green
  • Legal Framework of Property Rights in the United States
  • Pacific Legal Foundation on Property Rights
  • September 11 Victim Compensation Fund: An Overview
  • State of Hawaii Attorney General’s Office
  • House Housing Committee in Hawaii Legislature
  • Property Ownership and Gentrification in Hawaii

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RickT September 1, 2023 - 8:29 am

A 5k fine and 1 year in jail? seems kinda harsh for making an offer on property. I get the sentiment, but isn’t that overboard?

MiaW September 1, 2023 - 9:13 am

My heart goes out to those who lost everything. and now having to deal with property vultures too? smh

KevinZ September 1, 2023 - 10:03 am

nuanced approach or not, this is basically the govt telling you what you can or cant do with your own property. slippery slope if you ask me.

SandyM September 1, 2023 - 10:22 am

Gov Green is in a tough spot for sure. But honestly, im not convinced a land trust or victim fund will solve the real issues here.

JohnDoe September 1, 2023 - 12:29 pm

Wow, this is crazy. Never thought I’d see the day where the state had to step in to protect land like this. What’s the world comin to?

TonyQ September 1, 2023 - 5:57 pm

Im interested to see what happens on Sept 8 when Green makes his big announcement. Hope it actually helps the ppl there.

LenaH September 1, 2023 - 7:08 pm

Why is it taking so long to clean up the toxic waste? 6k people in hotels, this is a disaster on so many levels.


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