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Homestead residents await housing fixes

December 16, 2013 - 10:29pm

HONOLULU — Recurring problems on leasehold dwellings sold to Native Hawaiians by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands are generating complaints about the speed with which they’re resolved.

Denise Kaaa bought her Oahu home 13 years ago and says it has flooded multiple times. Mold has invaded interior walls and water damage has prevented use of a bottom-floor addition, she told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

At a development in Kauai, Harold Vidinha says glass shards and metal debris show up after heavy rain.

DHHL, the landowner, has not done enough to resolve the issues, according to critics.

“I wonder whether (the agency) is just set up for failure,” said Moanikeala Akaka, a former Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee and editor of Aloha Aina Ea Ea, a Big Island newspaper. “Some of the incidents are just horrendous.”

More than 26,000 beneficiaries, who must be at least 50 percent Native Hawaiian, are on a waiting list for homestead lots.

DHHL spokesman Puni Chee said most of the 1,500 homes sold over the last 10 years have been free of problems. The turnkey homes typically are built in bulk because it’s fast and efficient. DHHL strives to resolve problems when they arise, Chee said in a written response to questions.

Kaaa said issues with her home and others nearby have lasted for years. Deputy Attorney General Craig Iha in November 20112 sent a letter to the subdivision’s developer demanding that it correct defects affecting four lots. The cases are before a mediator.

Vidinha said DHHL has been slow to respond to problems on the Kauai property. DHHL hired engineering company AECOM to investigate the ground issues. The company detected metal and glass debris throughout the subdivision and tar chunks on two parcels.

The site had been used as an illegal dump of metal debris and abandoned cars, the report said.

The state completed an environmental assessment in 2003 and detected no significant problems.

Plans are being developed to sample groundwater and soil, Chee said. If no toxic contaminants are found, DHHL will arrange cleanup work, Chee said.