All it took was one Google search.

Three years ago, Cassandra Abdul was settling into the rhythm of semi-retirement when her phone rang. A friend, whom Abdul had known nearly all her life, called to tell her about something she’d recently discovered. “She said it was something I’d be very interested in,” she recalled. “And she was right.”

That “something” was Na Hale O Maui, Hawaii’s first community land trust. Abdul jotted down the name, hung up, opened her laptop and found the nonprofit organization’s website. Moments later, after perusing the site, she signed up to be a Na Hale O Maui member. “I wanted to be a part of an organization that would do a lot of good,” she said.

And Na Hale O Maui fit the bill: The volunteer- and membership-based organization helps create affordable housing opportunities for Maui residents, while keeping the housing affordable in perpetuity. Since it was founded in 2006, Na Hale O Maui has carried out its mission to secure and preserve a permanent supply of affordable housing alternatives for low- and moderate-income households in Maui County. Na Hale O Maui’s mission statement resonated strongly with Abdul—so much, in fact, that she applied to work for the organization. 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.

Abdul, who hails from a real estate family, knows firsthand the stability, security and sense of pride that comes from owning a home. “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.” But Abdul is also keenly aware of a harsh reality. For some, realizing the dream of homeownership is an uphill—and at times, seemingly unwinnable—battle, as many are priced out of the single-family home market. And the consequences of housing instability tear at the fabric of our community in myriad ways.

That’s where Na Hale O Maui steps in to help.

As a community land trust (there are now more than 250 in 38 states), Na Hale O Maui separates the value of the land from the value of the house; it sells only the house and retains ownership of the land. 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. Na Hale O Maui partners with banks, low-income service providers, large land owners, developers, nongovernmental organizations and state and county governments for all phases of site selection, acquisition, construction and management. Na Hale O Maui is a member of the Maui Housing Council, National Community Land Trust Network, National Association of Realtors, Hawaii Association of Realtors and the Realtors Association of Maui. “Our motto is ‘changing lives, one home at a time,’” Abdul explained. “And that’s what we do—we are making a big difference in the lives of the people who qualify to live in these houses.”

Since its inception 12 years ago, Na Hale O Maui has made the dream of homeownership come true for 33 families—and counting. Last year, the organization purchased 12 lots in the Kahoma Homes subdivision, a 100 percent workforce housing project that is being developed by West Maui Land Company. Na Hale O Maui will build and sell 12 three- and four-bedroom homes to qualified buyers who meet the eligibility requirements.

For this and other projects, prospective homeowners must complete Na Hale O Maui’s four-step program to be added to the list of qualified homebuyers. Na Hale O Maui will host a free homebuyer seminar on Saturday, Feb. 24, from 9 to 10 a.m. (registration begins at 8:45 a.m.) at the J. Walter Cameron Center in Wailuku. Space is limited and all attendees must RSVP by Friday, Feb. 23.

For more information about Na Hale O Maui, to inquire about membership or donor opportunities or to register for the seminar on Feb. 24, visit www.nahaleomaui.org, email info@nahaleomaui.org or call 244-6110. To learn more about the Kahoma Homes subdivision, visit www.nahaleomaui.org/kahoma-homes.

By Sarah Ruppenthal
Published in The Maui News – February 3, 2018

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