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New home gathers dust

DHHL has not been able to find a beneficiary to buy the Kauai property despite a wait list thousands deep

By Rob Perez

LAST UPDATED: 4:34 p.m. HST, Feb 12, 2014

A new Kauai home that was completed two years ago through a self-help program sits empty and boarded up, and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands has yet to get a buyer into the four-bedroom dwelling.

Even as thousands of beneficiaries on Kauai remain on a wait list for residential homesteads, the vacant Anahola house with cherry-stained cabinetry, tiled floors and sweeping ocean views has become a testament to the flaws plaguing the agency's system for placing families in available homes, according to some beneficiaries.

Many of the vacant homes are old and often need considerable repair work.

This one, however, was built two years ago by beneficiary families participating in a DHHL-funded, self-help affordable housing program run by the nonprofit Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement.

The families built 12 homes in Anahola through the program, and the first 11 were purchased by them for $158,000 each — the cost to build each one, according to Robin Danner, then-chief executive of the council.

But the final home, which was completed around August 2011, has yet to have its first owner.

After the beneficiary originally selected to buy the 12th home couldn't qualify for the mortgage, the council started marketing the unit for $234,000, the appraised value, with the expected proceeds to be plowed back into the program to build more homes, Danner said. Ten other homes were constructed on Oahu through the program.

DHHL, however, told the council to discontinue marketing the Anahola home in 2011 and to pull the for-sale sign from the property, and the agency sought buyers on its own, Danner said.

Asked why the home has gone unoccupied for so long, DHHL spokesman Puni Chee recounted the history of the property, including the inability to find a qualified buyer, and said the agency is getting the home reappraised, inspected and surveyed so it can be offered for sale.

After the original deal fell through and with no buyer in hand prior to construction, DHHL had instructed the council not to build the home, Chee said in written responses to the Star-Advertiser.

When DHHL learned that the home was being constructed anyway, the agency started looking for a buyer but couldn't find one, he added.

Chee disagreed with the notion that the prolonged vacancy of the Anahola home demonstrated a need to reform DHHL's buyer-selection process.

Jeff Gilbreath, executive director of Hawaiian Community Assets, a financial counseling service, said his agency presented DHHL with a qualified buyer two years ago. But the department told Hawaiian Community that DHHL needed to check whether other beneficiaries ahead of her on the wait list could qualify, he said.

"We have heard nothing from DHHL, and the home stays vacant," Gilbreath wrote in an email.

Danner said the home has remained empty because DHHL hasn't made it a priority and has not assigned a specific staff member to pursue a sale.

If DHHL wanted to, it could sell the house for less than the appraised value but more than what the home cost to build, expanding the pool of wait-list beneficiaries who potentially could qualify to purchase the home, she added.


Neglected Properties

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