Honolulu, HI

Hawaii settles housing discrimination complaint

August 16, 2016
Hawaii's public housing agency has agreed to take steps to remove language barriers for tenants after a Micronesian family that speaks little English almost got evicted when they didn't understand the legal proceedings against them.
     The Legal Aid Society of Hawaii announced the agreement with the Hawaii Public Housing Authority last week, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported (http://bit.ly/2aQkwRS). By settling, the state agency does not admit guilt but has agreed to award Valantin Sirom, and his wife, Sasinta Seremea, $2,000 in damages and strengthen its language access efforts.
     Legal Aid had filed both state and federal complaints on behalf of the Chuukese couple and their family when they faced eviction after two hearings before the authority.

Kawamoto's rent-free deal stays within law

January 20, 2008
Legally OK to offer Kahala homes only to Native Hawaiians
     Genshiro Kawamoto's plan to provide eight of his homes on Kahala Avenue to needy Native Hawaiian families raised an issue of whether his plan was a form of housing discrimination.
     Some non-Hawaiians who applied but were passed over for Kawamoto homes, expressed such concern to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which enforces the Fair Housing Act.

Hawaii nonprofit fighting rental bias

November 12, 2007
A year ago, a Kalihi nonprofit launched a massive project to root out housing discrimination against Micronesians — a problem, advocates at the agency say, that has grown with the influx of Micronesians to the Islands.
     So far, Kokua Legal Services has settled one lawsuit with a landlord — who agreed to pay more than $10,000, though admitting no wrongdoing — has filed another and is pursuing some half-dozen other landlords, the nonprofit said.
     Under the ongoing program, some 500 landlords with rentals on the market have been called, with Micronesians and Caucasians posing as potential renters.
     Members of the Micronesian community say the project raises much-needed awareness for renters and landlords, and is a vital step toward creating a fair housing market for Micronesians.

Micronesian Group Claims Unfair Treatment By State Housing

May 09, 2005
A group of Micronesian immigrants gathered at a Honolulu courthouse Monday, asking for fairer treatment from the state housing agency. They were there to support Aritae Apeluk, who is fighting eviction from her Kalihi Valley. She said the state overcharged her rent and started eviction without giving her access to a translator.
     Her pastor said that often happens in state housing.

Tuition waivers for Hawaiians under probe

March 17, 2004
The University of Hawaii's policy to give some Native Hawaiian students tuition waivers or discounts is being investigated by the U.S. Education Department's Office of Civil Rights, a spokesman said Wednesday.
     The investigation is based on a complaint attorney John Goemans said he filed nearly two years ago, charging that tuition waivers for native Hawaiians amounts to racial discrimination. In 2000, Goemans won a U.S. Supreme Court (news - web sites) case challenging a Hawaiians-only voting law.
     Spokesman Carlin Hertz in the Office of Civil Rights' Washington office confirmed "an ongoing investigation against the University of Hawaii."

Bill makes discrimination against gay renters illegal

March 08, 2004
A bill making its way through the Legislature would make it illegal for real-estate agents or landlords to discriminate against potential home buyers or renters based on sexual orientation.
     House Bill 537, which is expected to gain final approval in the House this week, would place sexual orientation alongside race, sex, color, religion, marital status, familial status, ancestry, disability, age and HIV infection as categories that are legally protected from discrimination in housing.
     Under the bill, sexual orientation is defined as "having a preference for heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality, having a history of any one or more of these preferences, or being identified with any one or more of these preferences."

Native Hawaiians reclaim heritage

July 20, 2003
Like many Hawaiian adults, Tony Sang remembers when schools banned the teaching of Hawaiian language and culture as new American ways enveloped the islands. Living in fast-growing Honolulu, Sang relied on relatives from outer islands for tidbits about the proud kingdom of his ancestors.
     The old folks would talk of a thriving people who fished and farmed where tourists now sunbathe and surf, and of traditions that honored ancestors and nature. Later, Sang learned more: about U.S. forces who helped overthrow the Hawaiian monarchy, foreign diseases that decimated the Hawaiian population, and modern economies that buried forests under buildings and emptied waters near the shore of their once bountiful catches.
     For more than a century, many native Hawaiians have chafed at the usurping of their sovereignty, finding themselves denied the self-determination granted to Native Americans and Alaskans. Today, they see the very notion of government programs for Hawaiians under attack in federal courts on race-discrimination grounds. Also challenged is the preferential admissions policy of Kamehameha Schools, a prestigious private institution founded by the will of a Hawaiian princess.

Letter on Hawaiians sets off policy talks

June 05, 2003
A U.S. Justice Department letter to a Senate committee could signal that the Bush administration will oppose continuing federal programs for native Hawaiians, U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye said.
     The letter says a reference to native Hawaiians should be deleted from a bill benefiting native American small businesses because it "could be viewed as authorizing the award of government benefits on the basis of racial or ethnic criteria."
     Gov. Linda Lingle said yesterday she has seen a copy of the letter but doubts it represents a policy by the administration to shut off Hawaiian programs.

Native Hawaiian aid suit to proceed

September 04, 2002
A judge ruled Tuesday that a lawsuit challenging state-administered programs that only benefit native Hawaiians can move forward against the state, but without the U.S. government as a defendant.
     The decision by U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway reaffirms her earlier ruling that the 16 multiethnic plaintiffs have standing as state taxpayers because the programs they are challenging receive state money.
     The plaintiffs sued the state in March, claiming the Hawaiian Home Lands program and Office of Hawaiian Affairs represent unconstitutional race discrimination. 

Hawaiians fear suits will hurt home program

July 02, 2001
For Richard Soo, home is more than the three-bedroom duplex apartment that he bought in January, six years after waiting for a Hawaiian homestead.
      It's Kapahu Street itself that the firefighter considers home, and he thinks of his neighbors – all fellow Native Hawaiian homesteaders – as family.
      "People are playing ukuleles. In garages, people are teaching hula. We can hear the kupunas (elders) talking about old times and speaking Hawaiian," Soo said. "It truly is a Hawaiian renaissance of sorts."
      Soo hopes his 27-year-old daughter will eventually inherit his lease, but a federal court lawsuit and a related hearing on Monday have left him worried about her future.
      Soo acquired his duplex for $185,000 – about half what similar properties in urban Honolulu sell for – under the Hawaiian Home Lands program, a state-administered program set up by Congress in 1921 to allow those with at least 50 percent Native Hawaiian blood to receive 99-year land leases for $1.
      But Patrick Barrett, a 30-year Hawaii resident, sees the program and others benefitting indigenous islanders as unconstitutional racial discrimination.
      Barrett wants the programs opened up to non-Hawaiians – a move many say would have devastating consequences for a group with already high rates of poverty, disease and a lack of access to good housing and education.


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