Trespassers LCA 3386 sign

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January 26, 2023

A Statement From Debbie Cabebe, Maui Economic Opportunity CEO:

The only reason we are pursuing a development at Ke Kahua in Waiehu is to bring affordable rental units to struggling Maui families.

We work with individuals and families worried about losing their homes with the prospect of homelessness looming every day. Some of their stories and circumstances are heartbreaking, and it is so gratifying to be able to help most of them.

When the prospect of building 120 rental units to be offered for as low as $550 a month to qualifying low-income individuals arose, we jumped at it. This is why we partnered with builder Highridge Costa and housing manager Hale Mahaolu to build the Hale Mahaolu Ke Kahua Affordable Housing Community on land that was given to us to support the Maui community.

MEO holds a warranty deed to the property. We have paid taxes on the land since the property was given to MEO in 2005. We have cleared parts of the property and maintained it. We can trace our title through King Lunalilo and a royal patent grant.

In early 2021, a group previously unknown to us began to illegally squat on the property. Because of the liability concerns that any large landowner faces, we initiated a trespassing lawsuit against the squatters and prevailed in 2nd Circuit Court – with the judge determining that MEO has a “possessory and title interest” in the property. We are unaware of any other legal action currently pending regarding the site.

The trespassers have made claims that “quiet title” is required. They are wrong: Because there is no break in the chain of title, MEO has clear title.

While we realize that there is no changing the minds of the trespassers, we point out that they cite Land Commission Award 3386 as heirs of Pehuino (picture of sign is attached). LCA 3386 is not for Ke Kahua but for a property near the ocean. The link to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs managed Kipuka database shows the site of LCA 3386 to Pehuino.

After multiple attempts to warn the trespassers to leave the property, MEO moved to clear the property on Tuesday, Jan. 24, with the help of the Maui Police Department. Removing the items from the property was very emotional for everyone involved. The squalid living conditions that we discovered were unsafe and unhealthy.

The belongings of trespassers will be held for 30 days and can be recovered by contacting MEO at (808) 243-4316.

While we understand the passion and devotion of the trespassers to their cause, some of their tactics were distressing. Taunts. Threats. Personal attacks. Swarming calls to MEO – which disrupted the work we do for people in need. We apologize to those unable to reach us Tuesday due to the calls, and we ask that you try again.

MEO has no financial gain in the development of this rental housing project. In fact, the costs of the legal challenges have been unexpected and burdensome, which is especially challenging for a non-profit organization.

Mayor Richard Bissen and Gov. Josh Green have made affordable housing their top priorities, and our situation at Ke Kahua shows that building those units requires determination and steadfastness. We remain committed to the cause of providing affordable housing for as many Maui residents as possible.

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