HONOLULU (KHON2)–Two fires in vacant homes within 48 hours of each other last week has residents concerned. There are roughly 34,000 vacant homes in Honolulu, a vacancy rate of more than 10 percent according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
All those vacant houses are not only an eye sore to those who live near them, they pose health hazards and also invite the wrong element into neighborhoods.
Residents who live next to these vacant homes are afraid and displeased.
“It’s like nobody is taking responsibility for this and it’s really frustrating,” said Dennis Nakamoto.
Nakamoto has been dealing with squatters and other criminal activity for more than five years at the vacant house next to his on the corner of Wilder Avenue and Oliver Street.
“We have vagrants coming in doing drugs,” explained Nakamoto.
“I saw this one guy coming out of the house and I said, ‘Hey! What are you doing there? This is private property.’ He says, I just went to use the bathroom. There’s no bathroom in there. He just went to pee on the side of the house. We have kids that live on this street, and they play. It’s not a good environment for them.”
Nakamoto said that they’ve called the police numerous times but all they do is chase the trespassers off the property and they keep coming back.
He’s worried the house will catch on fire like the vacant homes on Date Street and Kinau Street.
“I am very afraid. My wife is in a wheelchair. If there’s ever a fire, she can’t get out in time. With the condition of this house, it’s like a matchbox. Once it goes up, it will go really fast,” Nakamoto said.
Marc Alexander, the city’s Office of Housing executive director said vacant homes are a big problem.
“We have a very high vacancy rate in Honolulu itself, which is why action number one in terms of our resilience strategy is to reduce empty homes,” Alexander said.
He said the city’s plan is to create a vacancy tax.
“I know it’s not an immediate solution,” admitted Josh Stanbro, the city’s chief resiliency officer.
“But making sure that there’s a vacancy fee there that allows folks to move more quickly to fill in those homes with a local family, that’s how you solve problems,” said Stanbro.
Stanbro said if anyone sees any illegal activity happening at a vacant home the best thing to do is call 911.
For Nakamoto and his wife, a resolution can’t come soon enough.