Building on success

POIPU — Thomas Hall has lived on Kauai nearly 20 years. Owning a home had long been a dream, but he began to doubt it would ever happen.

Then, early last year, he signed up to be candidate for Kauai Habitat for Humanity. Later, his name came up. He was selected to be a homeowner in the program.

“I was truly blessed to become part of this project,” Hall said Thursday night during a Habitat for Humanity celebration.

His two-bedroom, 800-square-foot home, with a lanai, will be one of the first 12 homes that will be built soon in the Eleele Iluna Subdivision Project, Phase 2. Eventually, 107 more Habitat homes will be constructed there.

Hall, who works at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa, said having a house to call his own means everything.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing and builds community,” he said. “It’s nice to know people that are going to have houses around you.”

About 50 people gathered at Palm Court at Kukuiula Shopping Village to enjoy food and drink and hear more about Habitat’s campaigns and plans.

Board member Chris Young said the organization is the only chapter in the state that’s working on such a major subdivision. He said 40 percent of the Habitat for Humanity homes built in the state have been built on Kauai.

“Talk about Kauai being small and mighty,” he said.

And Kauai Habitat has ambitious plans because of the demand for affordable homes on Kauai. There are 2,000 people on Kauai Habitat for Humanity’s waiting list.

“One hundred and seven homes is certainly a big number, but it’s a drop in the bucket when you consider what is really needed here on Kauai,” Young said.

Which is a reason for creating more publicity and word of mouth about Habitat’s accomplishments, goals and needs. Young said he could talk for a long time about how the low-income housing organization is not a hand-out, how it’s a partnership and its impact on families, communities and the economy.

“We’re here tonight because we want you guys to be aware of what we’re doing, aware of what’s going on, and advocate for the organization to your friends and your network,” he said.

Habitat wants to build homes on the Eastside, too.

“We don’t want to take 10 years to build these homes,” he said. “We’re going to knock these out fast and provide more affordable housing.”

Young said he gets “a little grumpy when the government gets involved in affordable housing because I think we do a better job, so if we’re kicking butt, we will be even a more viable partner here on Kauai.”

Stephen Spears, executive director of Kauai Habitat for Humanity, said they have nine building permit in hand and foundations on homes in the Eleele subdivision could be poured by the weekend. The first group of homes could be framed and roofed by December.

“Which we’re really excited about,” he said to cheering and clapping.

He said Habitat has received strong support for this latest development, including nice bids from contractors.

“There’s a lot of opportunity,” he said.

Spears said many of the 12 chosen for the first homes have been patiently waiting their chance.

“Probably the best thing about all this is the homeowners,” he said. “They hung in there.”

Board member Thad Bond said Thursday’s celebration could be attributed to dedication and hard work.

“We’ve been doing everything short of lying, cheating and stealing to get this subdivision done,” he said, laughing.

The single-family homes end up costing the new homeowners about $250,000, a bargain on Kauai. The mortgage payment is more like “a really nice truck payment,” Bond said.

Families gain equity value on the appreciation of their home, which by their contract, they can’t resell for a profit and leave.

“That’s part of what we’re doing. We’re creating little nest eggs for families, legacies for their families, in addition to creating community — it’s all about people’s lives,” Bond said.

Habitat is busy working on a capital campaign to build more homes and is in the process of trying to identify its next plot of land for future homes.

It is important, Bond said, the board continually look ahead.

‘We have to make sure we keep going five years from now,” he said.

Young said there are many ways — serve on committees, donate to Habitat’s ReStore in Hanapepe or made a cash donation — that people can contribute.

“If we raise money, we can build a lot faster,” he said. “We’d like to raise several hundreds thousand dollars before the end of the year, which is a big goal. It’s ambitious, it’s a small island. So, your advocacy, just like spending time with us tonight, is helpful.”

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