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LETTERS for the January 9 issue

By Staff | Jan 9, 2020

DHHL responds to SCHHA claims on lease cancellations

The Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations (SCHHA), formerly known as the Sovereign Councils of the Hawaiian Homelands Assembly, has recently asserted several false claims about the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands’ (DHHL) lease cancellation process. The department wishes to clarify several of the assumptions.

“Lessees should not be afraid to open their mail, contact their lender or call the department,” said Tyler Gomes, deputy to the chair of the Hawaiian Homes Commission (HHC). “We understand that there are sometimes unavoidable life events that occur, and we have trained staff as well as contracted financial counselors to help.”

Loan Servicing Guidelines: DHHL has written loan servicing guidelines that have been provided to SCHHA on more than one occasion, despite SCHHA claims that DHHL does not have guidelines in place.

The department’s staff work one-on-one with lessees who are experiencing challenges in paying their mortgages. These challenges may include, but are not limited to, job loss, a medical emergency or a family crisis. In addition, loan officers with DHHL provide payment options and financial counseling paid for by the department. To ensure the availability of adequate assistance, lessees are contacted by postal mail, phone, e-mail and through in-person visits, if necessary.

“After listening to concerns raised by SCHHA, regarding the sufficiency of the department’s loan practices, DHHL conducted a thorough internal review with loan staff,” said Gomes. “Based on the loans that saw successful restructuring and mitigation over the last five years, it became clear that, in practice, DHHL’s Loan Program offers borrowers more flexibility and creativity in its mitigation efforts than the current version of the Loan Manual and far more than the fee simple market. As a result, DHHL will be reviewing and updating its Loan Manual to more accurately reflect the hard work and ingenuity that the highly-qualified loan division has been offering beneficiaries.”

Department Involvement in Private Lending: SCHHA has requested the department intercede on behalf of lessees who have borrowed from private lenders under the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) 184a or FHA 247 insured loans. However, the lenders are compelled to follow HUD guidelines, and DHHL must allow for the lenders to practice full jurisdiction over their loans. The HUD guidelines may be found starting on Page 609 of the FHA Single Family Housing Policy Handbook, hud.gov/sites/dfiles/OCHCO/documents/4000.1hsgh.pdf

Evictions: The assertion by SCHHA that DHHL has evicted hundreds of families is false.

The Hawaiian Homes Commission has asked 33 lessees to leave their homesteads over the last five years, which is .007 percent of the total number of mortgages on the home lands. A 2013 audit report also criticized the commission for failure to “collect delinquencies or cancel accompanying leases,” stating that it runs counter to the trustee duty of impartiality by elevating an individual delinquent lessee’s interest above other beneficiaries.

DHHL Lease Cancellation Process: If DHHL staff does not find success with curing a lessee’s inability to pay a mortgage, for a myriad of reasons, the case is then referred to HHC, who has an extensive lease cancellation process. The process includes multiple and ongoing hearings with the commission on the lessee’s island to prevent travel costs, loan modification options and additional financial counseling. A lease may only be cancelled by a quorum of five commissioners and a majority vote. Once a lease is cancelled, a lessee can then take the department to court for reconsideration.

“At the end of the day, the department and the commission are striving to fulfill Prince Kuhio’s vision of putting Native Hawaiians on the land,” said William J. Aila Jr., HHC chair.

“Keeping beneficiaries on the land is equally as important. We go to great lengths to afford lessees more flexibility and opportunities than borrowers in the fee simple market.”

For more information, visit DHHL’s Loan Services webpage, dhhl.hawaii.gov/hsd/loans.



Explore plant-based foods

The end-of-year/New Year holidays seem to whiplash us from one extreme to the other: eat, drink and be merry vs. the customary New Year’s resolutions (reduce social media, reduce weight and embrace a plant-based diet).

One-third of consumers already report reducing their consumption of animal foods. Hundreds of school, college, hospital and corporate cafeterias have embraced “Meatless Monday.”

Even fast-food chains Chipotle, Denny’s, Panera, Subway, Taco Bell, and White Castle are rolling out plant-based options.

A dozen start-ups, led by Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, are creating healthy, eco-friendly, compassionate, convenient, delicious plant-based meat and dairy alternatives.

Meat industry giants Tyson Foods, Cargill, and Canada’s Maple Leaf Foods have invested heavily in plant-based meat development. So have a number of Microsoft, Google, Twitter, and PayPal pioneers.

According to the Plant-Based Foods Association, plant-based food sales have grown by 20 percent in recent years – ten times the growth rate of all foods.

Sales of plant-based cheeses, creamers, butter, yogurts and ice creams are exploding at a 50 percent growth rate. Plant-based milks now account for 15 percent of the milk market.

The plant-based New Year’s resolution requires no sweat or deprivation – just some fun exploration of your favorite supermarket, restaurants and food websites.