LIHUE — Kauai Board of Realtors has a new president, who has been a licensed real estate broker on Kauai since 1979.
Ed MacDowell has witnessed changing trends during his more than three decades in the real estate business, including issues with property rights, infrastructure and fair housing.
“This is a threshold year with three open council seats, it could change the face of the island,” he said.
MacDowell believes every rule, regulation and law made by the government adds costs, and density can be changed with the stroke of a pen.
“As the market diminishes, the market is going up, and that’s compounded with a flurry of government rules and regulations that have an enormous impact on the time and the cost of building,” he said.
Nothing will happen for the benefit of citizens, according to MacDowell, unless the government works closely with the big landowners to develop future infrastructure.
“Affordable housing is a phrase often used that’s impossible, unless you have a conjunction of the government and the private sector,” he said.
The private sector could provide “decent well-lit housing” he says, if the government assured them of density with a reasonable timeline on developing the roads.
“A house for $450,000 is considered affordable, as crazy as it sounds,” he said. “Local families are working two to three jobs, working very hard to get the dream of owning their home.”
“If you’re a working person, no matter how many jobs you have, you’re not going to be able to do that. Once the threshold gets too high, people from the outside will naturally come in as retirement or whatever.”
Most of the projects currently being built are high-end homes on the North Shore, but many of these part-time homes don’t add much of an impact on public services, according to MacDowell.
“A project can take 10 years to complete, particularly if it’s on agricultural land, three to seven years for land use commission, a year at planning, a year at council, and every step of the way you never know what you’re getting until the entitlements are completed,” he said. “It could be shorter if everybody worked together. If the government can work with developers — there’s so much talent on Kauai it’s amazing — they can do the infrastructure, the density and give housing.”
He thinks Kauai’s thousands of young people living with their parents is a shout of homelessness, and Realtors need to find good basic housing for the people.
“Although we have a sizzling economy now with low unemployment and things, we do have to think about the future with young people coming up, which many times doesn’t appear to be happening anywhere,” he said.
In his younger days, MacDowell worked as a liquid plant operator and tractor trailer driver for Brewer Chemical until he moved here in the ’70s, getting his start in real estate.
“I’ve sold a lot of properties, did a lot of development and did a lot of community service on various boards,” he said.
He owned Vision Properties from 1989 to 2016 and worked with other firms before opening Vision Realty in June 2017. He has served as county planning commissioner, Kauai Business Council chairman, Kapaa Business Association director and member on the State of Hawaii Small Business Regulatory Review Board.
“Most of the real estate people here have been here for a long time, particularly the owners of brokerages, and they really have an essence of honesty and responsibility and care and love for the island,” he said.
As co-founder of the Coconut Festival and current director for the Hawaii Association of Realtors, he takes the reins as president for the Kauai Board of Realtors, representing its more than 600 members.
He feels lucky the board’s previous presidents have done most of the heavy lifting for him, but he hopes to continue public education on promoting fair housing and working with the community.
“Driving here today the traffic was congested, but we still let people in,” he said. “We still have this sense of togetherness. It’s like a kindness, like an understanding that we’re all in here together.”