HILO — The Hawaii County Council on Tuesday joined Maui and Kauai in backing Gov. David Ige’s request that Bank of America return to the table to discuss a decades-old dispute over $150 million in home loans for Native Hawaiians.
The council unanimously passed a nonbinding resolution urging the bank to respond to Ige’s request for a meeting to work out unresolved issues. A similar resolution passed in the state Legislature earlier this year.
The bank, however, maintains it fulfilled its obligations and received confirmation from the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands in 2007 to that effect.
Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy and Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz cited their family connections among the reasons they co-sponsored the nonbinding resolution.
Kierkiewicz, who has Filipino heritage and Hawaiian children, said her family may have been denied mortgages because of the bank’s past practices.
“I’m really happy to (be) standing in solidarity with our fellow counties Kauai and Maui and also the state,” Kierkiewicz said. “I really hope we are able to have very real conversations and movement on this, and they are held to the same standards we are when we use credit cards or take out mortgages.”
Lee Loy, who lives on DHHL property, said the issue literally hits home with her.
“We are beneficiaries of the trust, and we have some very intimate understanding of what it takes to get a mortgage on Hawaiian Home Lands,” Lee Loy said. “The ability to recognize home ownership … it’s a pathway to a better and brighter future for us.”
The bank was accused in 1994 of discriminatory lending practices in the form of redlining, the practice of denying services to residents of certain areas based on the racial or ethnic composition of those areas, by not providing mortgages on DHHL properties.
The dispute began after Kahului-based Na Po E Kokua Inc. formed the Hawaiian Fair Lending Coalition and conducted research that led to the Federal Reserve System and Office of Thrift Supervision ordering the bank to make $150 million in Federal Housing Administration mortgages available to those on DHHL properties by 1998.
The bank originated $13.1 million in loans on DHHL properties from 1994 to 2012, and has made no FHA-247 loans since then, according to account information provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Aug. 20, 2018, the resolution says.
Ige has sent letters to bank officials asking them for a meeting with government officials and Na Po E Kokua Inc. to sort things out.