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For many, homeownership is an uphill (and at times, seemingly unwinnable) battle, as many prospective buyers are priced out of the single-family home market. That’s where community land trusts like Na Hale O Maui step in to help.

“Our motto is ‘changing lives, one home at a time,” said Realtors Association of Maui member and Na Hale O Maui executive director Cassandra Abdul. “And that’s what we do—we are making a difference in the lives of the people who qualify to live in these houses.”

Na Hale O Maui puts affordable homeownership within reach of Maui County residents by securing and preserving a permanent supply of affordable housing alternatives for low- and moderate-income households. The volunteer- and membership-based organization is Hawaii’s first community land trust (there are more than 250 in the United States) and has made the dream of homeownership come true for 53 families—and counting.

Here’s a brief overview of how it works. A community land trust separates the value of a house from the value of the land underneath and around it; it sells only the house and retains ownership of the land in trust forever. The homeowner has exclusive use of the land, known as sustainable leasehold property, which can be inherited by family members. The cost of the land is reduced or eliminated, which makes the house more affordable, while also ensuring long-term stability and security for the homeowner.

And the key words here are “affordable,” “permanent” and “forever.” When you buy a community land trust home, it will remain permanently affordable. Forever.

Abdul hails from a real estate family and knows firsthand the stability, security, and sense of pride that comes from owning a home. She was hired as Na Hale O Maui’s associate director in November 2015 and stepped into the role of executive director and principal broker in February 2016 after her predecessor, John Andersen, announced his retirement.

Since then, she’s seen plenty of success stories. Here’s one of them: Recently, Na Hale O Maui bought back a Kahului home it had previously sold to a local family; they needed to move to the mainland to care for elderly relatives. The family received approximately $60,000 in shared appreciation and realized equity at closing, which enabled them to buy a market rate home on the mainland.

It’s a happy ending, but it’s not the end of the story.

After it repurchased the home, Na Hale O Maui made some improvements. Among them: swapping out single-paned windows for energy efficient windows, reroofing the lanai, and updating the 

bathrooms. Another family who had been renting an apartment in Lahaina applied for the rehabbed home and was selected; they closed in late February. And the income-qualified apartment they vacated is now available to another family. 

Abdul says she’s grateful to play a role in helping families realize their dreams of homeownership. “When you hand over the keys to new homeowners, they’re over the moon,” she said. “It’s such a wonderful feeling to be a part of that… it does the heart so much good.”

Prospective homeowners must meet eligibility requirements and complete Na Hale O Maui’s four-step program to be added to the list of qualified homebuyers. The nonprofit hosts free quarterly homebuyer seminars that cover the four steps to owning a community land trust home (attending the seminar is the first of the four steps), the fundamentals of community land trust homeownership, and the basics of securing the right mortgage.
For more information about Na Hale O Maui or to inquire about membership or donor opportunities, visit, email or call 244-6110.

The Maui News – March 8, 2021

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