More time might be needed if homes still uninhabitable

The following testimony was submitted by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii for consideration by the Maui County Council on Oct. 31, 2023.

Oct. 31, 2023, 9 a.m.
Maui County Council Chamber
Budget, Finance and Economic Development Committee

Comments on Bill 91 (2023)

Aloha Chair Sugimura and Vice-Chair Kama, 

Thank you for considering Bill 91 (2023), which would exempt from Maui County’s real property tax all real property damaged or destroyed by the August 2023 wildfires and deemed uninhabitable.

This exemption would apply to fiscal year 2025 and allow property owners to extend the exemption an additional year if their properties were still considered to be uninhabitable.

Mayor Richard Bissen’s waiver of fiscal 2024 property taxes applied only to improved structures “completely destroyed” in Lahaina, Upcountry and Kihei. This waiver did not help the many owners whose properties were damaged in the fires, but they are equally deserving of tax relief, since their buildings may not be inhabitable or in a condition that is safe to use for business purposes.

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii believes providing property tax relief to residents affected by the wildfires is a good way to help residents recover. However, rather than adopt Bill 91, Bill 102 should be the preferred option because Bill 91 applies to only fiscal 2025 — and possibly to 2026 — while Bill 102 applies to the second half of fiscal 2024 through the first half of fiscal 2027. 

Rebuilding Lahaina will likely take several years, so this property tax waiver should offer existing residents and businesses the maximum degree of tax relief possible to protect them from foreclosure. 

Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

Jonathan Helton
Policy Researcher
Grassroot Institute of Hawaii

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