Action needed on affordable housing now

This letter is in response to the letter last week by Jody Kono (TGI Forum, March 15) asking for help to keep the Courtyards of Waipouli as affordable rental units.

I grew up and spent most of my life on the windward side of Oahu. My wife and I were blessed to have raised four kids. What saddens me and concerns a lot of local residents who grew up in the islands is the high cost of housing here. Currently, three of my four adult kids, all college graduates, live on the mainland. They feel the cost of housing is too overwhelming and may never be within their reach.

Politicians say if elected they will provide more affordable housing. When, where and for whom? It is time for action. Losing an affordable rental unit to convert them into possible timeshare units? We need more affordable long-term rentals, not less.

My question to the council is what is fair compensation to the county, state and people of Hawaii by allowing a developer the ability to rezone an area of the county and enable the developer to build more units than those current zoning rules allow?

The estimated cost for the Courtyards of Waipouli was approximately $16.4 million; $2 million for land acquisition and $14.4 million for the building of the 82-unit complex, which averages out to about $200,000 per unit (information attained from Kauai County tax records).

Now, any developer that is required to add something to a project, i.e., solar or underground utilities, would now add the additional cost into their overall cost of the project, so that cost could be spread out over the whole project.

If you were to add to the cost to build the 750 luxury units in the Hokuala resort next to the Kauai Marriott the cost to construct the Courtyards of Waipouli, this would have attached approximately $22,000 per unit cost to the 750 luxury units in the Hokuala resort project, which was a negligible addition to the overall building cost.

Additionally, it was one of those added requirements that allowed the developer to accomplish the rezoning, allowing the building of the 750 units ultimately sold at a sizable profit.

My second question to the council is what is the appropriate percentage of a project that a developer should build as affordable to rezone the property to increase density and profit for the developer? What is that formula to allow for the maximum good for the people of the county to enable this change and allow the developer to make their profit?

In the case of the Courtyards of Waipouli, the developer was allowed to rezone, enabling the building of and sale of 750 luxury units, units which I am unsure were being sold as condominiums or timeshare units. If they were sold as timeshare units, the value increased exponentially, where the developer had, from the previous sale had already made their profit on that luxury condominium project.

What the county received for this massive zoning change was 41 affordable rental units for 10 years. An example of a poor decision of the council that seems to have benefited the developer and parties who sold the developer the land on which to build.

My understanding is the developer was required to provide more affordable units. However, due to the economic conditions at the time, the developer was allowed to decrease the number of affordable units and maybe also allowed the 10-year time frame.

The financial situation forced the council to make changes that benefited the developer. Current economics and the lack of available, affordable housing on Kauai now should allow the council and mayor to make changes to protect and provide the just and fair compensation that should have been done to allow the zoning change.

I believe that the council should vote to condemn the building for the greater good of the county and put all of the units which were the original purpose of the rezoning into affordable units, or at the very least, they should extend the affordable rental requirement to 30 years, and increase the number of units offered.

In closing, I would like to say to all politicians, especially our council members: You promised to represent everyone, not just a few. Stop talking, fighting, work together and DO YOUR JOB! Make this place better for residents first.


Stephen Frank is a resident of Kapaa.

  1. Imua44 March 24, 2019 3:31 am Reply

    Stephen, your heart is right but your understanding is off. At least on this scenario. The county can allow housing by allowing density, ordering planning to get permits out fast. There are several good areas for homes. Lihue, Kapaa Kekaha.

  2. Carrie eckert March 24, 2019 5:03 am Reply

    Welcome to the real world of supply and demand. There is no such thing as affordable housing in a lot of U.S Cities. Where I use to live, you cannot buy a home for under 1 million . Many people are leaving the state of California because of the high taxes and real estate costs. You can’t tell a land owner to not get what the market value for their land or the houses they build . People are in the business of making money. We live in a free society not a socialist country. I wish I could live in the places I use to live but I can’t. And there is no way my children can either. They will have to move as well. No sense crying about it and telling the state or council they have to do something about it because you can’t afgord it. Just move to a place you can afford like the rest of us. Hawaii has never been an affordable place to live and paridise will never be cheap. You will have to look elsewhere like many Americans and be happy with life and stop blaming others for what you can’t have.

  3. gordon oswald March 24, 2019 8:03 am Reply

    The “resident’s first” proclamation in your letter is right on!! About half of all Americans understand this and are with you! They’re called Republicans and America First patriots, which are becoming fewer and fewer as our Society grows sicker and sicker.

  4. james March 24, 2019 8:06 am Reply

    Why would condemning the building be for the greater good of the County? It would then require the County to use our tax dollars to compensate the owner for the benefit of a few residents who then get subsidized rent. How does this benefit me or 99% of Kauaiians? Again, Kauai remains a rare place to live with uncrowded beauty and peace of mind. No one wants Kauai to become like Honolulu. We don’t want rampant development just so a few people can afford to live here. Sadly, not everyone can afford to live here and, like your kids, have to seek opportunities elsewhere. Maybe they can move back sometime in the future without a government handout.

  5. manawai March 24, 2019 9:01 am Reply

    Stephen Frank said, “I believe that the council should vote to condemn the building for the greater good of the county and put all of the units which were the original purpose of the rezoning into affordable units, or at the very least, they should extend the affordable rental requirement to 30 years, and increase the number of units offered.”

    Stephen, the County doesn’t have the money to develop a new, or condemn an existing, project. Do you really think that any private investor after years of work and millions of dollars just to get the entitlements plus infrastructure costs, not included in your incomplete calculations, will invest into an affordable housing project if the County AT WHIM will change the deal that was freely agreed upon?

    BTW – The County didn’t have to agree with the changes, but it did. Both parties agreed and government force was not used. A deal is a deal except for some disingenuous individuals who have no problem breaking their agreements.

  6. Makani B. Howard March 24, 2019 9:25 am Reply

    If the council is going to represent everyone, they should fix the roads! Everyone uses the roads!

    Affordable housing only helps a few people. If you can’t afford to live here, maybe it’s time to move, save your money, then come back?

  7. Max Trapp March 24, 2019 9:28 am Reply

    Excellent article Stephen Frank, very well thought out. Covers the facts of the issue. I support your thinking 100%. Thank you for your input.
    Max Trapp

  8. Rev Dr. Malama March 24, 2019 11:37 am Reply

    There’s an old saying that if you no vote, no GRUMBLE…. but come on!!!! Don’t you think that demanding that the pirates stop stealing from the people who have allowed them to take control of all the so called law enforcement care about anything else than being part of the collusion and corruption….
    We are better than that!
    We are under a strange form of occupation that is illegal and we must wake up and demand real independence from the insurgency…..

  9. kauaidoug March 24, 2019 12:51 pm Reply

    I’m not sure I understand all of Mr Frank’s points but it seems if the county can buy back, or purchase, these units for low income then they should. They are needed. They exist already and sit right on a bus stop. Seems cheaper and easier than looking for low income housing sites to be built. Can’t think of a better way to use county, state, govt funds. For the people of Kaua’i. One sharp cookie, Mr Frank, Mahalo!

  10. RG DeSoto March 24, 2019 3:38 pm Reply

    “My question to the council is what is fair compensation to the county, state and people of Hawaii by allowing a developer the ability to rezone an area of the county and enable the developer to build more units than those current zoning rules allow?”
    What an inane question. Stephen, a little understanding of the most fundamental economic principle will tell you that more units on an island-wide basis is the ONLY thing that will drive down the cost of housing….period. You know, the old supply & demand thing?
    Instead, you like most of the economically illiterate, go groveling to the entity that is causing the affordable shortage problem in the first place–government and its nonsensical land use rules, laws and regulations. Even the Obama administration understood this. See :
    Here’s a quick quote from the study:

    The White House’s Housing Development Tookit starts with the belief that strict land use regulations are hurting the United States economy:

    “Over the past three decades, local barriers to housing development have intensified… The accumulation of such barriers – including zoning, other land use regulations, and lengthy development approval processes – has reduced the ability of many housing markets to respond to growing demand. The growing severity of undersupplied housing markets is jeopardizing housing affordability for working families, increasing income inequality by reducing less-skilled workers’ access to high-wage labor markets, and stifling GDP [editor’s note: Pete Rodrigue wrote about this for us last week] growth by driving labor migration away from the most productive regions.”

    The report goes on to say that while preventing new housing development can be environmentally beneficial, it can also amount to “laws plainly designed to exclude multifamily or affordable housing.”

    It also draws a direct link between zoning laws and both inequality and inequity in the US:

    “When new housing development is limited region-wide, and particularly precluded in neighborhoods with political capital to implement even stricter local barriers, the new housing that does get built tends to be disproportionately concentrated in low-income communities of color, causing displacement and concerns of gentrification in those neighborhoods.”

    Wake up , Stephen, you and others are “barking up the wrong tree”.

    RG DeSoto

  11. paulot March 24, 2019 4:11 pm Reply

    Thank you Stephen Frank for an excellent piece on affordable housing. Whether we have any family members struggling to afford housing or not, there are plenty of families who cannot afford housing. It does not make sense to require affordable housing for a finite number of years. I like the idea of an eminent domain procedure to take over those “affordable properties” to keep them affordable indefinitely. As far as Kauai’s housing being too expensive, that is in comparison to wages which are just too low for average families in Kauai.

  12. RD Sogoto March 25, 2019 10:06 pm Reply

    wah wah wah

  13. John Dudenhoefer March 25, 2019 11:13 pm Reply

    My reply would be to others that are not in favor of county action. So why do we residents have to lose our home and move, and move where. It is very difficult to find any housing on the island. Some people come to the island for health reasons knowing it is expensive to live here. The local residents that have been here long time have difficulties as well. Sure building more follows Obama and keep pricing down, but does it have to mean we give up what we have? Our place is fixed up nice and we are comfortable, do we have to look forward to moving just because?

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