In the aftermath of the devastating fires that have ravaged Maui neighborhoods, local officials are sounding the alarm about outsiders attempting to exploit the tragedy for personal gain.
Reports have emerged of individuals posing as real estate agents targeting residents who have lost their homes, attempting to purchase damaged properties. Concerns have been raised about the potential for ill-intentioned individuals to take advantage of vulnerable homeowners.
US Attorney for Hawaii, Clare Connors, issued a warning about possible charity scams related to the Maui wildfires. While charitable efforts are underway to provide essential aid, Connors cautioned that criminals often seize opportunities during times of distress to commit fraud and other crimes.
Property theft from abandoned businesses and residences is a common issue faced by disaster victims.
Hawaii Governor Josh Green has taken action in response to these concerns, expressing his intention to explore a moratorium on property sales for damaged or destroyed sites. Green emphasized the lengthy timeline before any rebuilding or housing development can occur, making it unwise for anyone to attempt to exploit the situation for personal gain.
The devastating fires have left thousands of Maui residents displaced, with a significant percentage of destroyed structures categorized as residential. This crisis unfolds against the backdrop of one of America’s most severe housing crises, as Hawaii bears the highest housing costs in the nation, making it increasingly unaffordable for residents.
Lahaina, a picturesque coastal settlement in Maui, has had a housing shortage problem even before the wildfires — due mainly to the increase in wealthy transplants and second-home buyers. Because of this, Native Hawaiian residents fear that the devastation from the wildfires may just hasten their displacement and that the rebuilding process might cater primarily to affluent outsiders seeking a tropical haven.
“I’m more concerned of big land developers coming in and seeing this charred land as an opportunity to rebuild,” a resident told ABC News.
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