House blessing in Kekaha completes dream come true

KEKAHA — Kaua‘i Habitat for Humanity and supporters on Sunday launched a new fundraising campaign, as it celebrated the announcement that more homes are to be built in ‘Ele‘ele Iluna and Anahola for Hawaiian families.

This is big news but the afternoon belonged to Melanie Kaneapua, who greeted project volunteers for her house blessing and banquet at 8068 Hoomau Street in Kekaha. She is the first to qualify and benefit from a new Habitat program for essential repairs and renovations for families in deteriorating housing.

For the past several months, friends and family of Kaneapua made the major repairs themselves to bring the home up to code after it was left to her by her aunt, Eleanor Kanahele, in 2010. It had been unoccupied and was in disrepair, needing painting, roof repair, new flooring and a new kitchen.

Kanahele could not afford the repairs and did not qualify for traditional financing. She contacted Habitat and learned about a partnership program that was not yet initiated. Habitat’s new repair and renovation component offered zero-interest loans to help low-income homeowners repair and update homes.

As a requirement, Kaneapua completed a first-time homebuyer education class. She learned more about maintenance, budgeting, mortgages and managing debt and credit.

“It was a long process and not an easy one,” said Kaneapua. “It was kind of like, ‘don’t give up’, and I almost did, but I did not give up!”

Kaneapua, her family and friends accomplished the major repairs. Global Village teams repaired the walls and local workers re-shingled the roof.

“Some were neighbors, some were ‘ohana, and one particular volunteer had his own life changed for the better because he came forward in honesty and with a heart to serve,” said Anne Dimock, Kaua‘i Habitat development dDirector.

The renovation was completed in a few months. In addition to the repairs and improvements, it was fitted with new energy efficient appliances, a solar hot water heater, and a refurbished computer.

“There is something to be said about sweat equity,” said Kaua‘i Habitat for Humanity Board President Bob Ray, who applauded the efforts of Habitat staff and volunteers along with Kaneapua and her supporters. He said this project is a way to help Habitat make a difference for much less money now than buying a property in major disrepair and make a complete renovation.

Ray said the key is that Habitat renovation clients in most cases would not qualify for traditional financing. It is business that would not be possible otherwise.

Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. was present to congratulate Kaneapua and called her an example for other families. He said the name of her street, “Hoomau”, translates roughly to “perseverance or persistence” and said it was very appropriate.

He said that in addition to building stronger families and neighborhoods the county partnership with Habitat would produce the first Green development for more sustainable communities with new technologies for both indoors and out.

Carvalho said he will be exploring more avenues of support for these projects at the Mayors Conference in Honolulu.

Habitat Executive Director Stephen Spears said he wants this project to bring awareness and to build support for their goal of increasing affordable housing on Kaua‘i.

“We can help many more Kaua‘i families if we add this to our work,” Spears said. “With over 1500 families on our interest list, we know we can’t build a new home for all of them. Doing repairs and renovations can extend the life of a house as well as improve living conditions.”

Habitat also announced the fundraising campaign goal of $3 million to help finance the infrastructure of the ‘Ele‘ele Iluna affordable housing subdivision owned by Habitat. It has already built 17 homes and plans to build 107 more on the 24 acre parcel by the end of the decade.

“We need to prepare the rest of the old cane land and put in utilities before we start building there again,” said Ray. “It’s a big project and we need lots of help. But once the land is ready, we will build about 15 houses each year until done.”

The cost of the entire subdivision project is close to $16 million for the infrastructure and houses. The $3 million in fundraising is what Habitat needs to finance the rest.

The campaign has raised $54,000 so far with large gifts from the Kaua‘i Habitat Board of Directors, Po‘ipu Rotary Club, and an anonymous donor. Habitat also received a $10,000 grant from the Atherton Foundation and a $25,000 from the Omidyar ‘Ohana Fund at Hawai‘i Community Foundation to start our Home Repair and Renovation program.

The G.N. Wilcox Trust also recently donated $15,000 to help buy a new truck.

Habitat also plans to build five more homes in the Anahola community in addition to introducing the repairs and renovation program for deteriorating houses.

For information about this and other Habitat programs contact Dimock at anne@kauaihabitat.org or 808-335-0295 ext. 113.

•Tom LaVenture, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or by emailing tlaventure@ thegardenisland.com.

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