Race-Based Tenant Restrictions

I am on the Big Island of Hawaii today doing some business (yes, I know, lets hear all those violins).  I encountered a program here called Hawaiian Home Lands.  Apparently the state makes long-term leases of land for homes available at $1 a year to native Hawaiians.  Recipients of this largess may either get a lot with an existing home, or just an undeveloped lot they can build on (using special subsidized loans and with a number of special exemptions from building and development codes).  People may pass on the lease and the improvements they have built to their kids as long as their kids qualify for the program as well.

On its face, this appears to be one of those well-meaning government programs designed to deal with a problem that many resort destinations face, that locals who work in the resort communities often get priced out of the market for homes in the area where they work (Vail is the classic example of this problem).  Unfortunately, as with many government programs, this program has some perverse results.

Qualifying for the program requires that the recipient pass a strict racial test, which the HHL web site says is "50% or greater native Hawaiian blood".  Setting eligibility for a government program based on racial tests is pretty outlandish in and of itself, but it gets worse.  People taking advantage of the program need to think carefully about the race of their mate before they decide how much to invest in their home.  A 75% Hawaiian who marries a full-blooded Hawaiian will be able to pass the improvements on to their children (since the children will be more than 50% Hawaiian), and thus can justify a large home investment.  The same person who marries a full-blooded Japanese or African or Anglo-Saxon will not be able to pass their home on to their kids, since their kids will fail the race test.  So, not only is there a race-test for a government program, but the government is providing strong financial incentives not to "dilute" a certain race.  Hawaii über alles.

By the way, those who don't think that passing assets to one's kids is an important part of long-term investment thinking should compare the houses built by program participants who know their kids cannot inherit to those built by those who will be able to pass the investment to their kids -- there is no comparison.  This would make a very fertile ground for an economics graduate student trying to quantify the value people assign to the of passing assets to one's kids in long-range investment planning.


  1. dearieme:

    Do they have to submit to DNA tests to prove their race? I ask because in NZ you can essentially declare yourself to be a Maori, and in Australia a few years ago it turned out, I'm told, that a leading Aboriginal agitator turned out to be part White, part Negro: not a drop of Aborigine in him.

  2. Isaac Schrödinger:

    Only Hawaiian Blood, Please

    Catallarchy:The state of Hawaii lets native Hawaiians lease land for 1$ a year, but they can only pass on the

  3. George:

    In fiji we have similar experience in terms of land ownership which I comment on in my blog