Hawaiian Homes Commission approves changes to land lease program, automatic renewals

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HONOLULU — The Hawaiian Homes Commission has approved changes to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands' month-to-month land leasing program with the intent of making lease processes more transparent and fair.

The commission voted Tuesday to authorize staff to develop a permit system based on competitive bids rather than first-come, first-serve, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (http://bit.ly/1AcEbj2 ) reported.

The current system had been criticized for favoritism, mismanagement and inconsistent enforcement.

The department also will get rid of automatic renewals for revocable permits, set up procedures for determining fair market rents, and conduct compliance reviews.

An advisory panel created by former Gov. Neil Abercrombie recommended changes.

Department of Hawaiian Home Lands director Jobie Masagatani, the commission chairwoman, said the new proposed program is a step in the right direction toward improving the short-term land disposition program.

"We look forward to the input and dialogue we will gain from meeting with our beneficiaries in the coming months," she said in a prepared statement.

The Hawaiian Homes Commission administers public lands called Hawaiian home lands for its Native Hawaiian beneficiaries. Its land trust has more than 200,000 acres.

The revocable-permit program was set up to get tenants onto undeveloped property not ready for homestead development. The program generated revenue for the agency and shifted the cost of maintaining property to renters.

Critics said the program was mismanaged and allowed some tenants to get significantly discounted rents for what were designed to be short-term deals. Some of the nearly 190 permits were issued two or three decades ago.

The department will hold plans to hold statewide meetings to obtain feedback from beneficiaries, tenants and the public on a revised system.


Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com

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