February 19, 2014

HIRONO APPLAUDS EFFORT BY DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS, HAWAII DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH TO REESTABLISH LOAN GUARANTEES FOR ISLAND HOMES WITH RAINWATER CATCHMENT SYSTEMS

HONOLULU – U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) today applauded the decision by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to resume issuing loan guarantees on homes in the state of Hawaii that utilize rainwater catchment systems. The move comes three years after the VA halted the practice of guaranteeing this type of home loan when it determined private rainwater catchment systems are not regulated by the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) and therefore could not meet the VA’s minimum property requirements.

“This announcement is the culmination of hard work and cooperation by the VA and the Hawaii Department of Health as they were able to come to a resolution that meets the needs of veterans seeking loan guarantees across the state,” said Hirono, a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “After raising this issue directly with Secretary Shinseki, I would like to thank him for his strong leadership in once again helping pave the way for veterans to buy a home, even in Hawaii’s deep rural areas that don’t have access to county water lines.”

Hirono also met with Hawaii DOH acting director Gary Gill to discuss this issue.

In Hawaii, the guaranteed loan benefit is heavily utilized by veterans and servicemembers. Over the past three years, the VA has guaranteed more than 9,600 home loans, translating into $4.44 billion in home financing. The moratorium had a tremendous impact on veterans seeking to buy a home on Hawaii Island, where an estimated 60,000 households rely on rainwater catchment systems.

Island veterans and the Hawaii Realtors Association first contacted Senator Hirono on this issue in early 2012. Hirono and her staff worked collaboratively with the VA’s Loan Guarantee Office and the DOH’s Environmental Health Division to help resolve the issue.

After discussions with the VA, the DOH determined that rainwater catchment systems can be made safe for domestic use if certain guidelines are followed. This clarification led to today’s announcement regarding the VA guaranteed loan policy, which takes effect immediately.

Hirono's staff will continue to work with the Veteran Benefits Administration's Honolulu regional office on outreach efforts to help veterans navigate the newly established procedures.