EXCLUSIVE: Dozens of Hawaiian homesteads sit empty, boarded up

Published: Oct. 8, 2013 at 2:55 AM HST|Updated: Oct. 24, 2013 at 7:01 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Neighbors call it the haunted house. The Department of Hawaiian Homelands boarded up this Nanakuli home two decades ago and it's remained vacant ever since.

It's one of about 40 DHHL homes around the state that sits empty just as tens of thousands of Hawaiians wait years for a homestead lease.

"It's been vacant 20 years," said Nanakuli resident Tim Troxell, who lives next door.

"I don't know what kind of poli-tricks or red tape they got it tied up in but you're right there should be a family here. I know a few people who would take it and refurbish the whole deal."

Hawaii News Now viewed at half a dozen boarded up DHHL homes on the Leeward Coast and in Waimanalo. We found cases where the homeowner was evicted for not paying lease rents.

In other instances, the homes went vacant as a result of a legal dispute between family members.

"It really makes me feel bad. It makes me feel really bad to see that many homes either boarded up, unoccupied or falling apart," said Hawaiian Homes Commissioner "Uncle Joe" Tassill.

"Some people are looking at the beach because there is nowhere to go and to have these homes boarded up is shameful. It's really really shameful."

A Hawaiian Homes spokesman declined comment on specific homestead leases. But he did say that legal and ownership disputes makes it difficult to take back these homes and place them back on the market.

Waianae activist Sabrina Grace said that's unacceptable.

"It's sickening. It's very sickening," she said.

"There's people waiting 65 to 80 years for their homes."

Troxell, the Nanakuli resident, said the vacant house next door to him poses safety hazards for neighborhood kids. Overgrown weeds can becomes a risk for fire and neighbors are constantly on the watch for squatters.

"It's been abandoned so long there's a ton of wasps nests all of this place and when my children play by the side or they come close, they get stung," he said.

"All of the children are scared. It's the haunted house."

Tassill says the problem doesn't only affect Hawaiians.

"It's the entire state. It's the taxpayers because these monies (for Hawaiian Home Lands) ... come from John Q. Public."

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