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Kagawa: Local families could buy closed TVRs

LIHUE – Kauai County Council Vice Chair Ross Kagawa is standing by a comment he made during a recent interview that said a potential upside of the new bed-and-breakfast ordinance is that it could give locals a chance to buy properties that can no longer be rented out by tourists.

Kagawa made the remark to ABC channel 4 KITV in reference to illegal Transient Vacation Rentals (TVRs) that will no longer be allowed to operate as a result of the county’s enforcement effort.

“Once we crack down on some of these illegal ones, they’ll have to decide whether to sell it back, and our hope on the council is that some of our local families may be able to repurchase some of these properties and get it back into the hands of some locals,” Kagawa said in the interview that aired June 23.

On Tuesday, Kagawa further explained his comments.

“We’re talking about illegal TVRs outside of the VDA (Visitor Destination Area),” Kagawa said. “Once they are deemed illegal, what are they going to do with their property? Once they go out of business, my hope is that… some of our local families would be able to acquire them and live in them.”

Kagawa said that the Hanalei and Haena communities were overrun with tourists after local families sold to investors who then turned the houses into vacation rentals.

“They were fooled by the big amount that was offered to their family and they sold it, and they didn’t realize that they probably should have held onto it,” Kagawa said.

Kagawa said that he believed the county made a huge mistake when it previously grandfathered in illegal operations, and said that is a large cause of the housing shortage today. He stressed that the council needed to take action to clean up the problem.

“I believe illegal TVRs are a huge problem on Kauai,” Kagawa said. “I’m not trying to be prejudice, I just think local families, as much as possible, should have the opportunity to own homes, and if the opportunity should arise from illegal TVRs being put out of business,” then that would help with the housing shortage.

But Kagawa clarified that, “Everybody is local if they feel that Kauai is their home.”

He added that the TV station took him out of context by choosing to only use a few lines out of an interview that was more than a half hour long.

The Garden Island reached out to other councilmembers to ask if Kagawa’s comments represented their thinking on the issue.

Councilman Gary Hooser said it did not.

“I wish councilman Kagawa would choose his words more carefully,” Hooser said. “I don’t think it’s helpful to engage in dialogue that classifies people into boxes and divides people into different segments of the population, and there is far too much of that dialogue in council already.”

Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura responded similarly.

“Those words did not describe my thinking. It doesn’t make sense because most people here will not be able to afford those homes,” Yukimura said, adding that she expects most of the closed-down illegal TVRs will become either long-term rentals or owner-occupied.

Still, she said Kagawa is right that the new ordinance could help with the housing shortage.

“That achieves our purpose in the sense that it’s not a vacation rental and we don’t have these horizontal hotels in communities that are supposed to be residential,” Yukimura said.

Councilmembers Mason Chock, Arryl Kaneshiro, and KipuKai Kuali’i declined to comment for this story. Council Chair Mel Rapozo and Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. were unavailable for comment.

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