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Helping Keep Lahaina Families in Lahaina – [Hawai‘i Business Magazine]

Helping Keep Lahaina Families in Lahaina

Hawai‘i Community Lending (HCL) is assisting Lahaina homeowners to get their housing needs met after the Maui fires.

Eight months after the devastating fires in Maui, an estimated 781 Lahaina owner-occupant homeowners continue to face dire circumstances, living with either no home or severely damaged homes, and collectively holding more than $225 million in first mortgages.

Responding to this pressing need, nonprofit Hawai‘i Community Lending (HCL) has established the Lahaina Homeowner Recovery Program, in partnership with Holomua Collective, and partially funded by a $5 million grant from the Maui Strong Fund of the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation. This three-year program will assist up to 500 owner-occupant Lahaina homeowners prevent foreclosure and qualify for financing to rebuild their homes, in addition to other services for those whose homes were not totally destroyed, but instead badly damaged.

There were 104 ‘ohana who are part of the owner-occupant homeowners impacted by the fire and living at Leiali‘i Homestead when the wildfires overtook the Hawaiian Homestead community just west of Lahaina. Two of the homes were completely burned. From the outside, the rest of the neighborhood looks untouched but, in reality, hundreds of homes were severely impacted.

“There is varying damage, ranging from severe smoke damage, toxic ash inundation, melted windows and toilet seats, and so much more,” says Hawaiʻi Community Lending navigation specialist and Leiali‘i homeowner, Maria Linz. Linz says that many of the homes will have to be ripped down to the studs and rebuilt due to the sheer extent of the damage and contamination.

The mission of Hawai‘i Community Lending is to build the capacity of low- and moderate-income communities to achieve and sustain economic self-sufficiency. Right now, many Leiali‘i ‘ohana are facing challenges and delays in working with their insurance companies to access settlements for the damages to their homes, she says, including payments for much-needed testing and remediation.

Back in September of 2023, HCL launched the Kānaka Anti-Displacement Fund to help the 104 Native Hawaiian homeowners in the Leialiʻi homestead access FEMA/SBA applications and appeals; a grant-funded public insurance adjuster; emergency credit counseling; loss mitigation assistance; and other grants and low-interest loans to help fund their temporary living situations, existing mortgages, and future rebuild. The Maui Strong Fund of the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation joined with other private funders to support these efforts.

For example, HCL hired an industrial hygienist. “It’s standard practice to do hygienic testing on a home affected by smoke, ash, and soot to determine the extent of damage and toxicity,” says Linz. “The testing determines exactly what you are facing, and the report also defines, step by step, the remediation processes needed to make the home safe and habitable,” says Linz. “By providing the industrial hygienist, we have non-biased, accurate results which the family can see and use to make decisions on how to move forward.”

HCL has also been working with Sentinel Pacific, a public insurance adjusting company, to provide its services at no cost to the families of Leiali‘i Homestead. Thanks to this, “We have finally started seeing movement in claims and even some substantial payouts, which have allowed families to begin the process of remediating their homes and making them safe again,” says Linz.

With these successes, HCL has expanded the program to establish the Lahaina Homeowner Recovery Program, for owner-occupant homeowners across Lahaina. Staff will meet with homeowners to conduct delinquent loan assessments, refer to services, and help secure insurance proceeds, grants and loans. HCL will also work with local banks and offshore mortgage servicers to modify existing mortgages to prevent foreclosure and obtain mortgage financing. In addition, a broad coalition of local banks and lenders have partnered with HCL to fund the recovery program, including First Hawaiian Bank, American Savings Bank, Bank of Hawaiʻi, Central Pacific Bank, HomeStreet Bank, Hawai’i National Bank, Finance Factors, the Hawaii Bankers Association, and the Federal Home Loan Bank.

HCL plans to start accepting applications from eligible Lahaina homeowners in July 2024. If you are a Lahaina homeowner who occupied your home at the time of the fires, you may sign up to be placed on an interest list by completing this Interest Form. For more information about the program, visit Hawai`i Community Lending.

See full article at Hawai‘i Business Magazine

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