Enthusiasm, energy fill KBR’s annual meeting

Donna Rice, president-elect of the Kauai Board of Realtors, has already held the organization’s lead post.

Why, people have asked her, did she want to do this again?

Rice knows. And it’s not about sales or commissions or listings.

“I’m doing this because I love it. I love working for you,” she said Thursday during KBR’s annual membership meeting at Kauai Beach Resort. “I love volunteering. I love giving back. I love teaching — whatever I can do to help our industry grow.”

About 200 people attended the gathering as Realtors took a look back at what was considered a successful 2016, and looked ahead to an even better 2017.

The event included a trade expo, a brief visit and talk from Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr., and the installation of officers. Awards were presented as well, including Volunteer of the Year to Chad Deal.

There was much enthusiasm, optimism and energy in the room with the housing industry on the rise. Residential, commercial and vacation properties all showed strong signs this year and that’s expected to continue.

The 559-member organization includes 121 real estate offices. KBR was chartered in 1978.

This year’s KBR sales could match last year’s 1,006 closings and surpass last year’s sales volume of $773.3 million.

“We really try to take the entire industry in focus as we look at 2016 and I am so thankful for this board’s efforts,” said Hannah Sirois, outgoing president.

She praised Karen Ono, association executive, and Toni Souza Ishimoto, director of member services, and the crowd responded with applause.

“Understand you are part of one of the most professional organizations I have ever worked with,” Siriois said.

One fear is that locals, people who live and work here, are being priced out of the rising real estate market that saw average home prices climb, even averaging more than $1 million in Hanalei.

Kanani Fu, Kauai County housing director, said the county continues a multi-pronged approach to create workforce housing and has seen success. The county projects that to meet housing needs by 2020, 1,782 units are needed. More than half, 941, are needed for rentals. And 60 percent are needed to support low-income families.

“We recognize that the affordable housing needs cannot be met by the county alone,” Fu said. “It is critical to engage as many entities and community members as possible.”

The county’s side includes planning, water, sewer and public works. The private side includes banks, developers, contractors and Realtors.

“We’re attacking problems at many different angles,” she said.

Fu encouraged the group to “start thinking about which approach suits you” to help bring affordable housing to Kauai.

“The importance of a home cannot be overstated,” she said.

Mary Flood, senior vice president of sales for D.R. Horton, Hawaii, gave an update on its Hanamaulu project. The 54-acre piece of land near the intersections of Kuhio and Kapule highways is being converted into a housing development.

The national home construction company is partnering with Kauai County to develop Ho‘oluana at Kohea Loa, a neighborhood that offers both affordable housing options and single-family homes. The project will include 151 homes, including 44 duplex units that will provide affordable housing in the $400,000 range.

“Ninety percent of what we do in the state is workforce housing,” Flood said.

With ground work nearly done, home construction could start early next year.

“We’re getting closer,” she said. “That’s going to be a good thing for all of us.”

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