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    Tuesday, August 21, 2018-3:45:59A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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AG: Waiver for homestead not the solution

ATTORNEY General Edward Manibusan said there are other ways to address the needs of homesteaders without compromising the purpose of the homestead program.

The AG provided his legal comments to the Senate Committee on Resources, Economic Development and Programs regarding Senate Bill 20-81 which will make the waiver under 2 CMC Section 4335 (e) retroactive to Jan. 2014.

Introduced by Sen. Frank Cruz, the bill is legally and constitutionally sufficient, the AG said.

Edward ManibusanEdward Manibusan

However, he does have some concerns regarding a provision in the bill which states that “the Department of Public Lands shall waive the requirement that homesteaders complete a single family residential dwelling upon showing reasonable justification that the homesteader continues to maintain the assigned lot in conformance with the DPL requirements, or upon the homesteader providing to the department that the building permit required under 2 CMC § 7131 is denied because the homestead area lacks water-, power-, or sewage system- infrastructure. The waiver under this subsection shall be applied retroactively to January 1, 2014.”

Manibusan said the reason behind the homestead program is “to allow individuals who are without sufficient means to purchase village lots to construct safe, decent and sanitary dwellings for themselves and their families.”

He added, “Allowing individuals to avoid constructing a home defeats the very purpose of the homestead program by simply granting any individual with a homestead permit a parcel of land without restrictions. After obtaining a waiver, the individual could simply sell the plot for short-term gain or enter into a long-term lease with a commercial developer.”

Manibusan said allowing a waiver will encourage prospective homesteaders to avoid constructing family homes without reference to whether or not the individual can afford to make the requisite utility instillations.

“This policy may ultimately result in portions of land that were designated for the future homes of our people being exploited for commercial purposes rather than providing much needed single-family homes,” the AG said.

There are better alternatives, he added. “If the concern is that homestead-permit holders cannot afford the installation of power, water and sewer systems that meet government regulations, then one answer that preserves the integrity of the homestead program is a loan system whereby the government funds the installation of the necessary infrastructure now in return for gradual repayment.”

The AG said “another alternative is that the government…fund the installation of the necessary infrastructure for homestead areas. Finally, if individuals are having difficulty complying with the time constraints imposed on them, giving DPL the power to grant extensions will allow the homestead applicants the necessary flexibility.”

Manibusan said “it is important that the homestead program remain true to its purpose: Providing our people with the ability to construct safe, decent and sanitary dwellings for themselves and their families.”

Maintaining the integrity of the homestead program will ensure that there is ample land for future generations to become home owners, he added.