(BIVN) – Federal officials with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, were asked on Friday during a Hawaiʻi County Housing Agency meeting in the Hilo whether buyouts are being considered for properties following the 2018 eruption of Kīlauea Volcano.
The County is expecting to receive millions in Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds in the wake of the volcanic eruption in Puna.
“To have a buyout, you have to have a logical reason for why you’re buying out those properties,” said Kevin O’Neill, Assistant Director for HUD’s Disaster Recovery and Special Issues Division (DRSI) in San Francisco . “You would have to identify areas of highest risk and have an explanation or rationale for why you’re doing buyouts.”
“It’s kind of hard to have a rationale for buying out properties in an area where you’re issuing building permits,” O’Neill said.
Puna resident Susan Kim also had some questions for the HUD team, which she was able to ask during the meeting.
Kim asked if waivers could be used for housing projects in Lava Zones 1 and 2, where federal officials previously confirmed HUD would not support such projects.
Mark Chandler, the Community Planning Development Director for the HUD Honolulu field office, “the Department has taken the position – I can even tell you the words that our assistant Secretary said at the time – ‘I’m
not gonna let somebody die there’. When they’re taking that strong a position out of headquarters, they’re not gonna waive it.”