Fairs aim to help residents afford Kaua‘i

Kaua‘i County and the Kauai Affordable Housing and Traffic Coalition will host housing fairs throughout March to prepare residents to either buy or rent several hundred affordable housing units to be built over the next few years.

In a meeting with reporters in his office at the Lihu‘e Civic Center Friday, Mayor Bryan Baptiste said the fairs will first-time homebuyers and renters move into such housing when government and privately developed projects are completed.

“Show up and be part of the program,” said Baptiste in urging residents to attend the fairs. “It’s is a great opportunity.”

They will have access to the layout, locations and prices of projects, receive information on training and financing options, meet with experts on home purchases and renting and hear testimonials from those who felt at one time owning a home was beyond their dreams, Baptiste said.

Attending the fair does not guarantee one will reach their dreams, but Baptiste said they are likely to link people up with suitable housing.

In a statement, Kendall Hirai, executive director of the Hawai‘i Homeownership Center and a coalition member, said he wants to reach as many potential first-time buyers and renters as possible.

Although many people may think they do no qualify for ownership, they could by making a few life adjustments, Hirai said.

Baptiste said the turnout will allow his admiration to assess what types of homes — whether they be single-family or multi-units — are needed and in what quantity.

Several hundred affordable homes will be built on state lands and private lands to be acquired by the county. Baptiste said $4 million — $3 million in last year’s budget and a $1 million bond float — in county funds are available at this point to acquire private property for affordable housing.

The county plans to hire a contractor through a bid process to develop three projects on six parcels by Mahelona Hospital in Kapa‘a and Kapa‘a Middle School and in Kekaha, the mayor said.

Affordable housing also will be supplied by developers complying with zoning or rezoning requirements and self-housing organizations.

Planning or work has gotten underway for several hundred affordable housing homes during Baptiste’s time as mayor, including more than 150 homes to be built in phases in Anahola by the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and more than 100 affordable units Kaua‘i Lagoons will build in Lihu‘e and Waipouli.

The county also has built a third phase at its affordable housing project at Kalepa Village in Hanama‘ulu, with a fourth phase to follow.

Building more affordable housing has been a top priory of his administration, Baptiste said.

Kaua‘i Housing a fair co-sponsor, identified affordable housing as one of its top priorities and developed a plan to tackle it, including a survey on Kaua‘i’s housing needs that yielded valuable information on affordability, preferred locations and the number and type of units needed, the mayor said.

Using that information, the coalition has worked with Baptiste’s administration to find ways to build more affordable housing.

Admission to the fairs is free, and child care for keiki 4 years and older will provided at no cost.

Contact the Hawaii Homeownership Center at 245-5860 for more information on the fairs.

• Lester Chang, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or lchang@kauaipubco.com.

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