More Hawaiian homeland residents struggling with loan payments, face eviction
DHHL beneficiaries asked Lt. Gov. Josh Green and state legislators for the same loan mitigation programs offered to other citizens. They say current state law prohibits that.
Grace and Daniel Arias-Kealoha have had stable government jobs for more than a decade and lived in a home in Aiea.
Six years ago, Grace says her brother agreed to transfer his homestead lease in Waimanalo to her. She claims she submitted the paperwork to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands in 2015, but the transfer never happened. Now her family is in danger of being evicted if they don't pay DHHL $131,000 in unpaid loans.
"We tried to do it amongst ourselves, we hold these things in, we tried to look for so much help on this small rock," Arias-Kealoha said. "They come over so random or we get notices all the time and threaten us, you guys are going to have to leave, you guys are going to be evicted."
The couple took their case to Lt. Gov. Josh Green and state legislators today, along with two dozen Hawaiian homeland residents and the Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations (SCHHA).
The group wants lawmakers to allow native Hawaiians on homesteads to receive the same loan mitigation programs offered to other citizens. They say current state law prohibits that.
"We had too many families that would get behind in their loan delinquency and it seemed like they were threatened with foreclosure almost immediately," said SCHHA chair Robin Danner. "Foreclosure is merely about to be homeless."
"There's well over 300-400 vacant homes that DHHL has taken back from homesteaders that sit vacant for 5-6 years. They end up evicting a family and the home sits there vacant," she added.
SCHHA says about 275 families are delinquent on their loans and it launched a Foreclosure Prevention Program to educate residents on their options.
They note that 90% of families who can't make their payments experienced a debilitating financial event like divorce, death, job loss or sudden health issue.
Out of some 9,800 DHHL beneficiaries, nearly half have mortgages overseen by the state. Of those mortgages, 15 lessees were evicted and had their leases canceled, nearly double the previous year.
A DHHL spokesman says every beneficiary is given due process, including a hearing with the Hawaiian Homes Commission and financial counseling.
The agency says it has 49 delinquent cases so far this year.
Advocates say it's never too late for residents to seek financial help and laws need to be updated to keep families in their homes.
"Sometimes people are shy about coming forward but under any circumstance we don't want this to end up in the courts which is really costly and usually don't resolve matters," said Lt. Gov. Josh Green. "It's much more expensive if someone is evicted ends up on the street or worse or ends up hurting themselves."
Green says he wants to alleviate the challenges of bureaucracy and invites homestead residents facing eviction to contact him at 937-0991.
SCHHA is also hosting a free information meeting tonight at 6 p.m. at the Kaneohe Bayview Golf Course. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.