Thank you for allowing me to share my concerns not only for myself, but for an entire community of 82 families living at Courtyards at Waipouli (next to Kintaro Restaurant). We are local people — seniors, families with children, and working people, including visitor-industry workers, a Kauai Bus driver, a manager at a local grocery store and self-employed business owners. We are in jeopardy of losing our homes sometime this year.
I am a local girl born and raised on Hawaii Island. (I am not the Jody Kono born and raised on Kauai). I moved to Kauai in 2014 and lived in Princeville right down the street from where I worked. The first year on the North Shore felt like I had stepped back into the time of my upbringing on the Big Island. It was quiet and serene — until the condominium project I lived in started turning into vacation rentals.
I moved to a rental in beautiful Kalaheo but it was too far from where I worked. A friend helped me find an apartment at Courtyards at Waipouli, where I live today.
I recently learned that this entire complex is up for sale with the option of turning it into visitor units. Not only was my heart saddened, but a part of me was very angry that our government would allow this to happen when locals have nowhere to live. I later learned that Courtyards at Waipouli was required to be affordable for 10 years in exchange for resort zoning for the luxury condos at Hokuala above the Marriott Resort in Nawiliwili, and the 10 years are up this year in August.
Under the agreement between the county and the owner of Courtyards, the county presently has the exclusive right to purchase the property. To the owner’s credit, he has offered to sell Courtyards to the county several times over the last 10 years.
Under the agreement between the county and the owner, the county now has the right to negotiate the fair market value of Courtyards and buy it at whatever that value is determined to be according to procedures outlined in the agreement. The governor and the state of Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation have shown an interest in helping to purchase Courtyards, but they need the county leaders to show support for public acquisition of Courtyards.
Two weeks ago, a councilmember contacted me to let me know that at the council meeting on March 13 he was going to introduce a resolution urging HHFDC to purchase Courtyards. He knew that we residents wanted to ask the council for help. Last week I reached out to all residents here at the Courtyards of Waipouli. In my letter to residents I asked for the people of this aina to come forward on March 13 to show their visible support. There was hope.
To my surprise, I learned this past Tuesday that the resolution was not being placed on the agenda for March 13.
My heart sank. How were our voices going to be heard? How could we find out who truly supports us? For Courtyards to be purchased by the county or state, we need our leaders’ support. We need a resolution from the County Council and a letter of support from the mayor. A supportive resolution from the state Senate and House would also show that our leaders are not willing to stand by and allow their people to be thrown into the streets.
As I have stated to many of our public servants, this is not just about me having a place to live. It’s about the bigger picture of what’s happening in our entire state. It’s sad to see that more support and attention is being paid to tourism and the people with money than to local residents. What about the people who live and work here? If we cannot afford to live here, who’s going to do the work? Our unemployment is at a record low — what happens when people have to leave because they have nowhere to live?
I don’t know much about politics, but I do know what is right, and it’s time for us to demand our rights. As people of this land, we must have some priority. On several occasions, several people from the political arena have advised us not to make waves and not to upset people, but the clock is ticking. Does anybody care about us and our upset if we lose our homes? It is time to speak. Saving Courtyards is not only about us who live at Courtyards at Waipouli. It is about all of us standing strong for our home called Hawaii. To all of us who live here: it is time to speak with a clear voice from our hearts to not allow ourselves to become extinct in our own homeland.
Jody Kono is a resident of Courtyards at Waipouli.