October 1, 2023

Hawaiian officials are warning residents that unscrupulous investors are trying to take advantage of the fire disaster on Maui to take over properties.

Gov. Josh Green reported that residents are being approached about selling fire-damaged home or land sites by people posing as real estate agents.

He said those people may have “ill intent” and issued a warning to scammers.

“You would be pretty poorly informed if you try to steal land from our people and then build here,” Green said in a press release Monday.

A woman posted an angry video on TikTok stating that realtors and investors have called multiple families she knows offering to buy their land.

“How dare you do that to our community right now,” she said. “Shame on you. Shame on you.”

More than 2,000 properties burned in the fires. Green noted that it is expected to be a very long time before any new housing can be built to replace burned properties.

Local developer Christopher Greene said he’s concerned that the fires will push local residents out of their community.

“Does this benefit Maui moving forward or does it gentrify it more and hurt the local population?  I think we know the answer.  And so it’s really critical to rally as a community and also respect the Hawaiian people and their culture and kingdom.”

The governor said that federal laws do not allow the state to restrict who can buy land in the state but they can block sales during the fire emergency.

“I’ve reached out to the attorney general to explore options to do a moratorium on any sales of properties that have been damaged or destroyed,” said Gov. Green “I will try to allow no one from outside our state to buy any land until we get through this crisis and decide what Lahaina should be in the future,” he said.

Green said they want to preserve and protect the land around Lahaina for locals and create a memorial for fire victims.

The Lahaina fire is America’s deadliest in more than a century.  There were 99 confirmed victims on Monday and the number was expected to keep growing.

Wildfire wreckage is seen Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023, in Lahaina, Hawaii.AP Photo/Rick Bowmer