Hawaii homeowners hit by eruption offered property buyouts

Hawaii homeowners hit by eruption offered property buyouts
(Image: USGS/file)

HILO, Hawaii (AP) — Big Island residents whose homes were destroyed by the 2018 eruption of the Kilauea volcano will get an opportunity to sell the properties through a federally funded recovery program.

Hawaii County’s Voluntary Housing Buyout Program plan was submitted to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Wednesday.

The plan said 612 homes were destroyed during the eruption, including 294 primary residences.

The program could result in $83 million in federal Community Development Block Grant funding, including $78 million for the county to purchase property that was destroyed, isolated or damaged.

Disaster Recovery Officer Douglas Le said the program, which is anticipated to begin in April 2021, will prioritize households with low to moderate incomes and properties that were primary residences.

The program is expected to begin with offers for documented primary residences, then secondary residences and then undeveloped residential parcels.

Condominiums or other units sharing common areas and walls, and recreational vehicles or campers used as residences, will not be eligible for compensation.

The program aims to buy the properties of about 300 homes, although Le said that estimate is based on property value assessments and is not a fixed goal.

Prices will be determined by 2017 property assessments, while no individual buyout will be above $230,000, which is the median appraised market value of properties in the region at the time.

There will not be price distinctions based on the state of properties, Le said, noting a property buried by lava will be purchased at the same price as an identical property that was isolated by lava flow.

The county will deduct property insurance payouts from final buyout prices, while structures on purchased properties will be demolished after the sales, Le said.

Roger Meeker, president of the Kapoho Beach Community Association, said he believes most area property owners would be interested.

“Some people might be holding out for a better price, but if you’re listening to the scientists, it’s going to be a long time before there’s anything to go back to,” Meeker said.

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