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Tax relief is on the way for longtime Maui families struggling with steep hikes in property taxes

Casey Harlow

Tax relief is on the way for longtime Maui families struggling with a steep hike in property taxes.

The Maui County Council unanimously approved Friday the ʻāina kupuna bill. The measure would amend the county tax code to allow Maui County families who have held onto their land for more than 80 years to dedicate that property as ʻāina kupuna, or ancestral land.

Councilmember Shane Sinenci, who represents East Maui, says the bill will help families going through hard times not only keep their land, but pass it onto future generations.

"For us in East Maui, we have lots of ʻāina kupuna. We have over 200 people listed on those properties. And for us the ʻāina has always been a respite, a puʻuhonua, a safe zone for them to go to," Sinenci said.

"When we’re talking about homeless and no place to go, at least for some families we do have this ʻāina kupuna that serves as a place that grandma and grandpa left not just for one, two, or any particular child but for all of the family to enjoy," he said.

The ʻāina kupuna dedication would last for a period of 10 years. During that time, families would only be subject to the minimum property tax rate — which currently stands at $350 a year.

Many longtime landowners in popular areas of the county have faced skyrocketing property taxes due to land speculators, high-end homes, and resort development.

The Maui County Council voted 9 – 0 in support of the bill. The measure now goes before Mayor Mike Victorino for his signature.

Interested ʻohana are encouraged to contact the Maui County Real Property Tax Division for more information on how to apply.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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